On the afternoon of my very last exam

16,000 sheets of note
Of statement, prose and quote
Of problems posed, stuffed down my throat.

1,020 books of text
O’er which I pondered and perplexed
Tired, drained, or just plain vexed.

20 years of 3-season blues
Autumn, winter, springtime views
Through classroom windows the world perused;
An idle gaze on days unused.

399 examinations
Stress, study and consternation.
Flashcards, fish and preparation.

Today I’ve sat 400: my very last exam,
and sit and wonder exactly what I am.
No more a student, and yet not more a man.

And though I’ve been deviser
Of 400 separate answer sets
(All more or less correct)
I am no more the wiser,
Nor any greater is my intellect.

They did not teach me how to love
Nor how to live,
How to rise above my petty self,
Nor how to give –
Nor even how to take;
No, not even doing good, for goodness sake.

I leave this final venue as a novice still,
A freshmen only, at the very bottom of my hill.
There are other tests that yet await.
This I know, will be my fate.

And whatever may, upon my final day of Judgement be,
One thing’s sure: the answers won’t be such
As would earn me a degree.

Alliteration is Amazing. Assonance is Fantastic. But Rhyme is Sublime

Twilight Peace

You can’t define a peaceful frame of mind
In terms of states observable.

But if you could, you might try this:
A grassy slope, yourself reclined
A summer crop of people ripened right behind.

On one cheek the heat of evening sunshine
Still burns hard
On the other whips a chill nocturnal breeze –
Night’s vanguard.

You are the evening.
Your face is twilight.
Your nose the border between the Republic of Day
And the Kingdom of Nightfall.

The very air inhaled must show its passport
To move from glaring colour’s bloom
Into the comfort promised to the night’s caccoon.

What is life?

Life is that time you played

What started out as hide-and-seek

Then someone added Nerf guns

Secret bases, boys-vee-girls

And finally a rope swing and a dare

Water so cold it warmed the after-swimming air.

Treats meant to last the week eaten then and there.

Nothing ever tasted so sweet.

No one saw the June sun duck below the trees

behind the river line.

Well past supper time!

On legs sore from running you nonetheless peeled

Across the fields

To a half-meant ‘sorry momma’, and a half-cold spaghetti meal.


Life is the buzzing sound

From music played too loud

And the noise of the college crowd.

That lingers still in ears and on your clothes

All down September’s rain-painted side-walk home,

Reminds you of that second pint,

The little smile she bore you

Sideways, mid sentence to her friends,

That might – just might – some future night, blossom into much, much more.


Life is those endless minutes waiting, anticipating

The breaking of the swept and polished order of long-kept

Knick-knacks, unmoved since last They stormed the door;

That in two violent minutes of shedding little coats and mittens triggered

More noise than needles make in all the winter weeks of knitting new ones, one size bigger.

Then They finally appear, you find

Little faces so filled with Now and so in likeness of Their parent-child, standing, smiling just behind,

It calls to mind, every school lunch prepared, every memory shared

and all those times bygone.

This rich reward, this weekend chaos, is the reason why you struggle on.


Life is never ‘staying safe’,

Waiting, clutching to existence,

Until every living risk fades to nothing.




Take me back

Take me back somehow

To when I dreamed I’d have

A better now than now.


Return me in place and mind

To those fledgling times when we were lax and preened,

So small we lodged ourselves between the cracks

Of that and this unchanged machine

In which we now have risen to be full-fledged cogs.


Take me back

To when my back impressed upon the chain-linked wire

Dangled legs all splayed, tired out

From too much tennis played,

And spent this one forgetless hour

Before a shower and off to watch a movie.


Return me even to those since-forgotten fears,

To the stoney months and years

Of want and doubt and grit and scree,

From which Nostalgia – liar that she is –

Pans out her precious golddust memories.


Take me back

And if you say it can’t be done

For pity’s sake,

Give my back the strength to carry on.

Eulogy for a Dungeon Master

I came across this poem that I’d written ten years ago to mark the passing of Gary Gygax – creator of Dungeons & Dragons

Eulogy For A Dungeon Master

Countless the basements
You transformed to caverns;
Nameless the kitchen tables
fabled, formed as tabled taverns
Where a pimply 16 year old
Did his best
to bluff the role
Of rugged half-elf grimly
Assigning the next quest or tale
From o’er the rim
Of a dinted pint of frothy ginger ale.

We saw not the chinks
In our own teen-male armour
Nor did we stop to think
If days of playing roles might harm our
Hold on a real world so much more alarming
Than a hoard of charging orcs.

For in that four foot table space
Of paper, dice and figures made of lead
There thrived a truly magic place
where teenies meek were brave instead.

No slick slew of game designers needed we
No 3-D graphics, LANs or fancy Wiis.
With one hardbound spellbook you made the spark
That filled our teenage years with something more
than boredom and a high school pecking order.

Maybe your DM’s rolled a 20 now
Or just grew up and found
a girl, a job, a better place in whatever
World is real to Him.
And in a box in some cosmic attic
Your long forgotten character sheet
Will fade to dust, crumpled up against
An old SAT study guide.

But know this, Gary Gygax:
In every memory that still persists
In every fighter, cleric, thief or mage
Reborn upon a line-ruled page
A piece of you comes back to life.
And so we say adieu and thanks
Until we meet again as NPCs.