Unbridled Change

O tempora! O mores!… Fuit ista quondam in hac re publica virtus…

—Cicero, First Catiline Oration

These days of changing values can be hard:
What once was just, today’s considered wrong.
Some things encouraged now at one time jarred,
Abandoned now are values once held long.

Unquestioned rules and customs are eschewed,
And standards jettisoned yet not replaced.
What once was fixed has now become unglued,
While words which all revered are now erased.

But while injustices should be redressed,
Iconoclasm can exceed all sense—
When free expression finds itself suppressed,
Then tolerance becomes a sad pretense.

For though things change, some things stay valid still:
Light is not dark, nor yet is good now ill.



A Winter’s Tale

The time of growth and change is done and past.
From thaw to frost activity prevailed,
And change came often, often coming fast,
Till finalizing Fall all toil curtailed.
With wintertime’s quiescence, come at last,
The old year’s final breath has been exhaled.
__And now all nature’s quiet, all now still,
__All bedding down, preparing for the chill.

The other seasons garner all the praise:
From sprouting Spring, through Summer’s fruiting fields,
To Autumn’s vibrant hues and bracing days,
Each one its own unique enchantment wields.
But Winter’s coming oftentimes dismays,
So cryptic are the blessings that it yields—
__Yet unexpected beauty will abound
__In many forms both subtle and profound.

Then gales gust frore as frigid flakes bespeak
The wintry depths which grip both heath and grange:
The rime-bound land is frozen hard, and bleak—
Yet bleakness has its beauty, harsh and strange.
And what seems dead or dormant soon will wreak
What surely counts as nature’s deepest change:
__The imminence of warmth’s returning breath…
__The immanence of life in seeming death.

The springtime’s semelparity is fate,
As sure as tide or twilight, and as strict.
It burgeons and it blooms, but soon or late
It goes to seed and dies. The clock has ticked
And knelled the midnight hour—but don’t berate
The seed for its mortality—predict
__Instead the miracle which will ensue:
__That out of silence, life is born anew.



John Marmaro is originally from Long Island and grew up in Sarasota, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1980, with honors, having participated for two years in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ English Department High Honors Seminar, with poetry tutorials by Richard Eberhart, Gwendolyn Brooks, James Dickey, among others. He lived in New York for 15 years, working for Credit Lyonnais New York most of the time. He is now disabled, living in Soring Hill, Florida. He began writing poetry again 3 years ago, much of which is posted online on PoetrySoup.com.




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3 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Very nice, John, and very lucid — great examples of well-executed form. The epigraph in the first poem is quite well fitted to the cultural in(per-)versions we encounter today, but it’s little comfort knowing that the same sort of thing went on in ancient Rome. The second poem is a rather astute observation about the way we regard the seasons, at least those of us whose only winter sport is shoveling snow. I did have a slight problem with “semelparity” though — I can’t find the word in my dictionaries. Did you coin it yourself? I can almost infer its meaning from the roots, but I’m not sure I’m getting it exactly right.


    All familiar with this anonymous text from Orlando Gibbons’s 1st book of madrigals (1610)?
    The silver Swan, who, living, had no Note,
    When Death approached, unlocked her silent throat,
    Leaning her breast upon the reedy shore,
    Thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
    “Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
    More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise.”

    • C.B. Anderson

      Julian, I don’t quite know who you are, but the poem you cited was wonderful, better than what I might, on my best days, wish to have written. The entire poem is exquisite, but the last line is killer.


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