Michelin Stars of Alderaan [work in progress]

Skies of america


The speed of light is cruelly insufficient

Carrying its news so fast, as fast
as it can carry anything, or fast 
as we suspect a thing can carrièd be.

And still that news is always later than
When it was truly new. Consider if

you will the fates of stars: Those lights you see
This night may not be extant glowing spheres
of incandescent superfluminesce:

That nebuliscious Crab was once a star,
When you and I were lungfish, or far less.
It’s gone now: blown to glory’d vap'rous tatters.

They each and every one of them (the stars)
May be a long past loss whose passing we
Are learning late of, in this now, this night.

The others in our local area
have known as long in years as they are far
Far far from here in galaxies away

From us. And where they stand, they will not know
Whatever we may do until we too are gone:

This light this heat this night by then will be
As gone gone gone
As Alderaan -raan -raan,

Albeit less fictional.


A poem is a story of its time.

I watched the television, and I thought:
Those young chefs on the Channel of All Foods,
Each evening striving to avoid the Chop….

Well no. I did not think it in those terms.
Begin again, speak straighter, lay it out.

There was a time, as recent as … last week?
But no … But last month, certainly? Yes, yes:

Within these recent (?) days, there was a time
When each night we could watch aspiring chefs
With dreams as big as Space, as big as those
Of them as lived on planets now consumed
By Death Stars or by neutron stars or some
such things. Those dreams - of making tasty foods
For others in your neighborhood or world;
For strangers, in perhaps for just the night;
For friends who come to see what you have made,
Or something for your family, just for them -

Those dreams were extant when that show was shot,
And when those chefs triumphant howled their joy
They thought they would indeed go home again
And open up their petite boîtes de rêve,
Their little foody dream boxes. But, no:

Since then, this world's gone wrong. A cruel star -
A Wormwood, if you will - has cast them out
And shut them down, and dreams are busted plates
And bolted doors, and rent come due and no,
No hope but in delay and clenching teeth
And laying low or lighting out, or [blank].

III. [bridge]

I wanted to tell a story of a bat,
But it proved a bad idea.

It began, I thought, like this:     

                                                           In Xanadu,
in caverns measureless to all men but the Khan, 
There lived a bat and all his family.

The Khan, withdrawn from Xanadu and dying,     
        [this was later]
Recalled how there had been a limpid night
The crescent moon and evening star had shone
so bright between them other skybound lights
seemed cast in shadow, while all earthborne things 
Were luminous, though seen in silhouette.

At ease beside a phosphorescent pool, 
The Khan sensed hovering wings

[the story would go on: the Khan would bond
with the fledermauskin, teaching it cosmology.
The little bat in its turn learns to drink down stars,
Their glory and their fearsomeness - it’s grand! -
And many centuries later the little bat’s descendants
(the story going on apace, you see, to our own day) 
are themselves drunk down by men, 
and thus
Become an Origin Story,
the one I thought to tell, as if it were novel,
as if it were interesting. Well, so much for that.]

To return


In Alderaan did Hollywood
a bounteous peaceful paradise decree,

And on the day on that world, or the night,
or noon, depending where one was aboard
that lovingly imaginary globe,
Those fond, imagined citizens awoke,
Or slept or stretched or ate or drank or dreamt
- I think of them as eating, drinking, dreaming - 
Or swooned or belched or muddled on their way
Or did whatever else they might, and then

A Crisis came and that's the end of that

. . .

Old Pappy Know-Good's Almanac

The Platonic Form of the Good has a cold.
The Platonic Form of the Good is indisposed.
The Platonic Form of the Good regrets.

The Platonic Form of the Good says come back tomorrow.
The Platonic Form of the Good will not see you now.
The Platonic Form of the Good has no time for your nonsense.
The Platonic Form of the Good is up to none.

The Platonic Form of the Good was seen in a late model Citroën northbound on the Old Road outside Sørenberg,
driving in a circumspect manner perhaps intended not to call attention to itself,
but was spotted by an alert 12-year old nonetheless.
Authorities declined to give chase.

The Platonic Form of the Good comes for the Archbishop.
The Platonic Form of the Long Goodbye is long.
The Platonic Form of the Good Life is short.
A Platonic Thing Happened on the Way to the Form of the Good.
The Platonic Form of the Good left your cake out in the rain.

The Platonic Form of the Good is not behind the arras, has not taken the veil,
and cares not
for draperies or tapestries, textiles or quilting bees,
white sales or white sails.
The Platonic Form of the Good knows nothing. Knowing is a different portfolio.

I know nothing of the Platonic Form of the Good. Still I speculate. I will not cease from speculation.

The Platonic Form of the Good asks no questions and answers no questions and
thereby tells no lies.

We are all in this Platonic Form of the Good together.
Every Platonic Form of the Good for itself.
All Platonic Forms of the Good are the same, 
but each Platonic Form of the Good is the same after its own fashion.

The Platonic Form of the Good will not take your call, nor any other.
The Platonic Form of the Good disdains the Platonic Forms of the True and of the Beautiful.
Says it never knew them.
It denies Keats three times before each cock’s crow.

The Platonic Form of the Good settles back, ruefully shaking its cloud-topped head.
It offers you no frosty beverage. It asks no quarter.
The Platonic Form of the Good does not get out much anymore.
The Platonic Form of the Good does not get or spend.

The Platonic Form of the Good would hunt in packs, if it hunted,
and if there were more than one of it.
The Platonic Form of the Good prowls alone, humming jauntily
        They seek it here there
        through the neighborhood
        that damned Platonic
        Form of the Good.
The Platonic Form of the Good gains, from behind,
and is faster and closer than it appears.

The Platonic Form of a Good day to die is not itself Good, nor Platonic.
The Platonic Form of the Good would try to sell you something,
but does not stand to gain by it.
The Platonic Form of the Good is humorless, and no laughing matter.

There is no Platonic Form of the Merely Good Enough.
No good will come of this

Dionysian Hymn



I done drunk
Myself to death
I done drunk
Myself to death
This heaving chest
Bereft of breath
It has done drunk
Itself to death

I have drank
Until I died
I have drank
Until I died
No donkey’s skin
Nor Nauga’s hide
Can save a soul
That drank and died

I did drink
And now it’s done
I did drink
And now it’s done
So red the moon
So dead the sun
So black my heart
That’s road is run

Hand me that glass
Full-filled with wine
Hand me that glass
Brim-full with wine
From Noah’s crop
That drink divine
The end is near
That end is mine

Amen, amen
Let’s drink again
Till then, till then
All men: amen
cin cin
cin cin
et fin
et fin

The Feral Parrots Fly in Pairs

Palm light birds

The feral parrots fly in pairs
Out and about over parks and arboreta
The feral parrots fly in pairs
In loud shouting clouds above Pasadena

Two's the rule
The rule is two
Two among other twos
or two untethered
Tree to tree or place to place
in mists and haze, or en plein air
Two's the rule 
The rule is two

Keeping company
one with the other
One with one other
and never another
Each of two
looking out for the one
that looks back at the one
of the two they are not

Their parents parents parents sprung from cages
freed by fire
Thrown on hot updrafts back into air
they had nearly forgot
Wings returned to winging
Throats returned to singing
But the world they now found was not the world that was one time their own
Not at all the world that their own forebears had known
Is their bond born of that history?

Finding themselves
unbound and untrammeled
what did they have
but the others of their kind
similarly suddenly
free and bereft

So each one found
arbored in palms
beside parking lots
r huddling adjacent 
in backyard eucalypts
that each must find one
with whom to fare forward
In duo soli

Two's the rule
The rule is two
Two among other twos
or two untethered
Keeping company
one with the other
One with one other
and never another
Each of two
looking out for the one
that looks back at the one
of the two they are not

Feathered creatures do not weep
whatever princes have written of doves
The feral parrots fly in pairs
for fear of parting without tears

The feral parrots fly in pairs
Out and about over parks and arboreta
The feral parrots fly in pairs
In loud shouting clouds above Pasadena


"The Kissed Mouth":
Words, for an Unrealized Song Cycle

DG Rossetti - Beata Beatrix - Art Institute of Chicago

At the end of 2012 and into early 2013, I wrote a group of verses intended for use in a song cycle. 

The project came my way through Garrett Shatzer, who has since retired from composition. Although he and I would eventually collaborate in 2014 on two other standalone choral songs — "Beset", which made its way to Rome, and "The Map of the Clock" for the Sacramento Youth Chorus [Attention choral directors: listen here, it's very good!] — but various things fell apart and that original song cycle never advanced to the point of actually being set to music. When Garrett stepped away from the composing game, the verses reverted to their author, this fool, and there they remain.

The original task was to craft a group of song texts linked thematically, to be set for two singers. Soprano and tenor voices were the plan, although I would be just as happy if either or both were pegged lower down: I am partial to mezzo sopranos and baritones, myself. No particular theme was suggested, and I soon inclined toward having the singers be characters and toward a set of songs knocking on the door of, if never quite gaining admittance to, the realm of chamber opera. The tenor part would be for a single character, but the soprano would have three.

I proposed the story of a man in Victorian England, who would be called upon of an evening by three apparitions. The man I settled upon was the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose life provided any number of candidates for the three soprano spirits. From that pool, I settled on Elizabeth Siddal, who modeled repeatedly for Rossetti and others of his Pre-Raphaelite circle, married Rossetti, and died; Jane Burden Morris, also a frequent Pre-Raphaelite model, who married William Morris but also carried on a longstanding relationship with Rossetti; and Beatrice Portinari, as idealized by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, and as further idealized by Rossetti throughout his artistic career. Visions of these three appear to Rossetti as he is on the verge of death. He is granted by Beatrice a small personal apotheosis.

The title of the piece became The Kissed Mouth, derived from Boccaccio by way of a Rossetti painting, Boca Baciata, the principal model for which was Fanny Cornforth, who does not appear in these verses even though, of the women important to Rossetti, she is the one, apart from his sister Christina, most likely to have actually been near at the time of his death. As I remark elsewhere, Fanny Cornforth deserves some verses and music of her own one day.

I like The Kissed Mouth, and I am pleased to have had the occasion to write it. When the original project still had some prospect of coming to fruition, I did not circulate the text much beyond the potential participants in it. When its original purpose ended, I never got around to publishing it elsewhere, until now.

I have set up The Kissed Mouth on a group of pages separate from the main body of this blog. It can be read complete, at a single go, or it can be accessed through a page that links to its individual subsections, which are also linked to one another. There are even notes and some description of the sources for the bits of Rossetti's own poetry, and the allusions to Keats and Dante, that were incorporated into the fabric of the piece. As Beatrice sings near the end: Enter here!


A Self-Serving Message Directed to Composers: If you find anything here (or elsewhere in the Poetry postings on this blog) that strikes your fancy, or that gives you the impression that I might be able to concoct a text or ten that might be of use to you in your own projects, I am easy to find. Inquiries welcome. My dreams of becoming a freelance librettist refuse to die. Being as I am an aging white male myself, I have a particular interest in working with those who are not one or more or any of those things.


Photo:    Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beata Beatrix, Art Institute of Chicago.

The Kissed Mouth © 2013 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

I know this much is true

I know this much is true
according to

reports of eyewitnesses to reports from the scene

or presumed friends of the presumed eyewitnesses

not so much friends really
as acquaintances   
well-informed former acquaintances
who to be honest don't always follow them that closely
maybe half a dozen of those

two sources familiar with articles about the folks they heard had had the conversation

the gall bladder of a small pigeon,
distended and porpoise-shaped
with glints of mica

the usual suspects
the usual guilty parties
the ostensibly innocent parties
the lawyer of their lawyers’ lawyers
or a spokesperson for the aforesaid

wasn't it you I heard it from

a persistent patch of lint in the trap
seemingly burning but yet unconsumed
and still there each time I look

fox news, or maybe hedgehog news

three aides who later sought first aid after smacking heads as they were all three attempting to listen at one time at the relevant keyhole

a senior white horse souse

yo mama
mine as well

that little voice
you know the one yeah that one

from out the patch of lint

yeah that one



The creatures that dwell in the margins of maps
are a destination in themselves
sought after sometime captured in glimpses
in sidelong nets and backhanded pitfalls
by trickery on reflection
via deception
or inveiglement

wishes are horses
horses are unicorns
manatees mermaids
rumors immaculate proof

what might one find
beneath the sargassum
what might one find
living its life
adrift on a plastic subcontinent

here there be Maps
of where here is
of where there was
here there be Maps
of what you will

will what you will make of it
seek and pursue
rise as you will or can
along the lifting and plastic lines of the compass rose

North from Lodi, Early December

All morning on the Interstate through fog
past cattle bathed in fog and maybe goats
recruited to crop down the marginal grass
of tracts of Interstate-adjacent homes

one drives all morning on the Interstate
past fog-blest cattle fog-bathed baby goats
past crops at dawn, distrait fog-margined grass
Those homes
This fog
The interstate
That grass

The speed and turbulence of all that drives
the Interstate sweeps all the roadbed clear
of fog. The fog holds off a bit, askance,
the driver's glance still barred beyond the marge.

The pavement seems so smooth, as smooth
As suede as fleece as milk as sheep as goats,
and on each side secreted by that fog
the grass-green grasses grow beneath the stock.

The grass grows green-o, rushing rushers rush
and still the fog sifts, self-absorbed and still

and mops the moist and misted eye that drives
all morning on the Interstate through fog.

The Short Line

The short line-

Old friends
What ends

Do we work toward?

Who is on board.

May need to be made
But who is repaid?

Who is

Whose words
Do we twist?

And who's ignored?
Let's postulate

Amid the mists
That life is hard

The times suggest
There's no reward

And young things end
As old, friends

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

Wick’d by wisps of air
Or spread akimbo
By the press of wind
Across the faceted cliff face
Skewed in descent
The creek-rush waters
Fall as water falls
That has no choice

They are fewer now –
Those still, infinitous drops that drop en masse
From the precipitating lip –
Than they were in spring
Fewer yes but clearer to the eyes
Of we who tip our sockets up to see

In places such as this it seems
We are not out of Eden yet
Yet we are
At all times walking
Toward Eden’s sole and outbound gate

Wickèd the heirs
Of whate’er has made
Such a space out of space
Waking in error
Where an angelic blade
Keeps that portal in place

We will reach it too, too soon
But likely not tomorrow

Look up and up and
Drink the air before you
Walk back down the tarmacked trace
To your lot

And still the falls
fall in the fall
never still
though not at their full
they never falter
Still the falls
fall for free
for all
in their fall
they never alter

Meantime the air drinks deep
From vaporizing waters
Watched by other fallen folk
Who stand and point and press
Until they too withdraw


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.