A Benediction for Times to Come

A Benediction for Times
To Come

So the journey ends at a
Place that we must call:
The beginning. A

Start to things we must not
Finish or find in hidden, far-
Away places that we thought to
Go to when once we played
Drums and trombones in
Quiet coffee bars in
Rainy Denver days. It

Must be a winding path that comes
Out at us as we think
Of sunshine and men on
Cliff-sides and days we whistle
And whisper of times and places we

Knew little of except the thought
That the beginning is an
End, as well…

Notes on How to Read a Poem

It is such a foolish mis-
Conception to think that words
Tell us what they mean. That
To read is to read about what:
We see. That

Words do not
Fall apart and
That we must see
This breakage and wreck-
Age if we
Want to
Know what a thing
Really: means. It’s

The words. The moments
Of shadows and sunlight spilling
Down the sides of distant
Hills that we catch just as an after-
Thought as we round the bend by the
Tree that was broken by the lightning
Bolt out of clouds that screen what
We just can’t see. I see

That to know we must see
What we can’t see when words
Hold too tightly together.
Too solid. Too firm. Rather

Celebrate the bro-
Ken the way we
Push words aside to see
That ancient light lurking
Somewhere within…

The Return of J. Humbert Riddle

Editor’s Note: After a
Long period of absence and
Forgetfulness, I found the
Courage to dig deep into the
Pile of moldy Riddle poems. This
Is what I found…

Excerpt 7

… Long ago on mountain cliffs I
Threw unfinished, broken
Poems to the dry wind. These

Bits of a lost self. These pages
Slowly dissolving in
Cool mountain lakes.

Excerpt 19

So it happened that wild stares
Greet me in towns as
The wild hawk soars as
The beer spills over battered
Muddy boots as
Songs can no longer be heard from
An unplugged juke box as

I push through fog towards
The windy, wild shore.

Excerpt 2

I did find it once, this
Patient, quiet longing for
Higher things. The touch
In the stormy night. The

Smell of clean mornings beside
Crisp alpine streams. The
View like a carpet rolling on and
On. I

On cliff-sides and thinking
About green vases with
Pink buds picked from unknown
Gardens behind thick, waving
Aspen trees. Once…

The hint of madness,
The hint of lov

To A Poem, Lost Once

Fare well, frail, little poem
Of mine. Be gone and try to
Find your place in this
Beautiful, cruel world. I

Can do nothing else for
You. You must go on and find
Those spaces where time is
Infinite, and the broken page
Can no longer hurt. It

Is gone, just as we are suddenly
Gone and like the dust you pick
Up and blow out of your hand. Gone
Like the wind that blows around a corner
We cannot quite see. So

Go my little poem, leave
Me to new thoughts and new
Ways of finding old things.

On Poetry

Such careful crafting.
A poem. It demands
Such careful crafting.

Lines must meet at
The very end of lines.
A period. Or a comma,
Or that mysterious
Semicolon; what do
That odd dashes do?

And… those marvelous
Metaphors, those stirring
Similes sitting like lumps
Of gold in streams we search
For on mountain sides we just
Can’t quite reach. Flowing

And flowing through
Enjambed lines that push
Past pictures of pale
Pleasant pulses of all
Alliterative verse. So

Too those times when rhyme
Fits nicely in line

With this poem… this
Design of words that fit

Posted as Part of Poets United
Midweek Motif

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part III

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

III. The Tap, Tap, Tap

In that city of passion
And poets, I mixed broken
Pigments for a shadow that
Clung to the walls, clung…
Painting and painting. Him

Dangling and hovering, him
In one hand a chisel while I
In the dark of Sixtus stare
At the impure light
Of candles at
Bare bodies born by quick,
Imperfect strokes.

An eye, quivering. The
Tap, tap, tap
Of paint dribbling
The floor. Also,

With Atahualpa once,
I and dirty and played
A game of chess one
Stormy, silent night.

Breaking over quiet,
Distant peaks. The
Pound, pound of rain
Working on patchwork pavements
Nearby. While I

Stole his queen while the fire
Snapped nearby. I
Slipping pieces to my
Ripped pocket. The

Tap, tap of rain
Outside. Tap like

When walking
Down back alleys in
That tattered town of London.
Seeing a man –
Up against a wall,
Leaning with a broken sign swinging –

A stranger first I thought,
A man out on the sun,
And rain. Yet,

When the light hit right I saw
A beloved, immortal face
Whistling such a sweet tune,
Whistling such a sweet tune through
Puddles oozing up
Cracked, uncovered feet.
“Dah-ta,” “Dah-ta,”
Floating like magic
Through the air.
Symphonies we cannot hear.
Tapping and tapping feet in tune.

Until, on a cold day at Whitehall I
Eyed an executioner
Masked, thinking of
A dull blade, a
Late night fire in forgotten
Forests. Then,
That Stuart of Two Shirts strutting
Out from chipped, sanctified crowns and
Sighing, sighing…

As the crowd gasps,
As the crowd gasps.

Posted as Part of Poets United Sunday Poetry Pantry

The Room

I do not know much
About the room
We thought we found down
That dank corridor
We never took.

It was far they say,
But dark like the day.

I remember we pointed
To it from cross-roads. That
We saw it once when
Rounding broken corners in towns
I cannot find since. The

Sound of a man who calls
To us from road-sides,
His voice in the trees beyond
The river. The noise

Of a door slamming shut
Behind us somewhere.

It was far they
Say and dark like
The day. Or…

The tap on a door at night.
The sudden realization
That it comes from across
The street somewhere, to

A window half-shuttered by
Blinds, with a light on
In the corner. It was far they…

Posted as Part of DVerse Open Link Night

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part II

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

II. Up and Up

Once wrapped in sweat and dust,
I, at the Holy Wisdom, in
That Great City
Of Constantine threw

Picks and metal at blocks
Of marble hewn
And hewn…
Time breaking up
Time, pounding
Entire days
Of pounding, pounding
Gaps in domes where light
Bleeds through. Hands
Bloodied hands that reach
Up and up.

Fingertips lost
In pale, setting suns.

In sands, too, I
Once went marching through
Sands with burning hands
Held up before faces tattered,
Cracked with lips unable
To bleed, to kiss. Trans-
Fixed by dunes always
So shapeless, so
Changing and windswept
Like soldiers lost like
Gusts and great swords and promises
By firelight, in shadow on tent
Walls with hands held up
And crying… burning
Like thunderbolts in the sands.

Mansions made up
Of dust and sky.

Even, I, on a hill in Hastings,
Caught an arrow falling
From the sky.

The form of one Harold, bloody,
Faceless almost
By blood. A King,

With a broken church lurching
Up from the gloom
Of hills tired and tattered. Swords
Left alone, stuck
In Earth with no one near.
Whimpers and horse smells –
Mud covering teeth –
Unable to call out –
And mist. Mountains,
Of Mist… Unreal.

Then I once walked
Off course. Confused.
Down roads hidden
By the stubble of undergrowth, trees
Not casting a shade, upright
And unmoved. Darkness,
And light. A door appearing,

Turning in at an unlatched
Gate – who I do not know who –
Legs only. Silence
Tomb-like silence. Yes,

Signs of an obvious an
Excruciating sickness.
Buboes black and batched
Along hollow armpits,
Crawling up weak,
Wasted legs. Skin
Ruptured. Peeling
Back laughter
Of hollow mouths –
Voids in the void –
And macabre.

Posted as part of Poets United Sunday Poetry Pantry

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part I

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

I. Claps of Thunder

I sat in a cell once, long ago,
In Athens it was, crying for that dead
Wasted body of pale Pericles… our hero.

Wine mixed
Not enough. I

Saw broken bits
Of corpses bouncing by –
Such sad women,
Such sad women – all
Pushed downstream to
The still, tepid waters of
Our port,
At Piraeus.

Wine mixed not
Enough. When

Young and bounding
Over rocks on
Star-cold sands by
The clay site at Siwa I
Stared at grimy papyrus
Scrolls, stared
At a king, a king left
Stabbed and silent by
A solemn pool,
A pool in
The dry, mythic mountains
Of perfumed Persia.

Wine mixed…

In Utica in a sparse room,
In a dead
Desert city, I
Found Cato mumbling
And mumbling about

The claps of thunder that come
Before the damp rains chill the
Silent statues the
Crowded squares of
Speckled Rome.


Posted as Part of Poet’s United Sunday Poetry Pantry

Riddle’s Hand Poem

Editor’s Note:
I do not know for certain if
This is an actual Riddle piece. The
Subject doesn’t fit. Why hands? But,
I did find this among his papers
After he died. By the markings on it,
I think he wasn’t quite
Finished with it.


An extreme beauty.
Would say?
Is found,
In the fingers,
Of age.

Withered –
Wasted by wear –
To the meaning
Of the matter.


Yes, details,
Dead, excesses,
Excised… and
What is left,
Is pure,
Is painful,
Is true –

A pair of hands,
A bar of chocolate,