The Backwards Romantic

“Most of those once common occasions for poetry seem embarrassingly old fashioned now that piped-in tunes and hand-held devices provide the background music for life’s journey.” -Dana Gioia

I’m prone to loathe the radio and television, noise
from all angles, laptops, iPads, cell-phones—
the gibber-jabber of the wired boys
and girls. I crave the silence of the Stones
of Venice, eerie quiet, sacred sound
that’s not quite sound: the wind-chime’s plaintive tune,
the creaking trees in snow, a shrieking loon
on a morning lake where fog and calm abound…
I’d have preferred a horse-cart out tonight:
with only the yotes yipping and the clop
clop-clottering of horses—by the light
of lantern—who knew when and where to stop
without a map, much less a GPS.
Endangered Silence causes me distress.


Palemon* on the Beach in Crescent City, California

I had made the wool-white peppered sand.
I kicked a conch and pacéd to and fro.
I traveled all across the lovely land
leaving behind a life I judged hollow.

There was a fog-horn guiding sailors home.
I thought of all that I had left behind.
A light, eye-red, blinked ’neath the foggy gloam.
I felt a poorness of a different kind.

The road had run out. Where was I to go?
A backward journey I had to go start.
(I crave Communion with those who I know.)
I saw a man with cardboard, cans, and cart;

and knew that I was fortunate; I turned.
I’d spent my nights of ennui and of woe.
Palemon can go home again— I learned.
I left behind a life I judged hollow.



*Conventionally, any young man on a journey. Palamon appears in Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale,’ an adaptation of Boccaccio’s Teseide (Norton Anthology of American Literature). See also Philip Freneau’s ‘On the Emigration to America and Peopling the Western Country,’ in which Freneau spells Palamon “Palemon” (RM).

Reid McGrath is a poet living in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Featured Image: “Piazza San Marco” by Canaletto.

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2 Responses

  1. Sir Bul de la Ewe

    The Paladin

    Upon the beach in Crescent City, California,
    beneath the open skies, I saw a paladin upon
    the wool-white, peppered sand at the Pacific Ocean’s edge.
    He kicked a conch, while pacing to and fro, upon that ledge.
    He took to heart a fog-horn’s groaning, guiding sailors home.
    He thought to leave behind the hollow bubbles of the foam,
    the churning, breaking waves below the blinking red-eye’s glint.
    He felt he had come to the end, no place to leave his print.
    He cried out, ‘Whoa,’ in darkest nights of ennui and of woe,
    and learned upon that forlorn shore that it was time to go.

  2. Sultana Raza

    I sympathize with the ‘I’ character about white noise, and the constant nonsensical chatter that fills our waves for no good reason. Very clever use of words, and a good marriage of concepts and images. Bravo!


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