Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category

Jerome and the Devil

In Poems on December 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm

M. Standfast, New York

In a glade near his home
Lurked a boy called Jerome
When he met with the sight of the devil
Who asked for his soul
In a tupperware bowl
With a voice smug, and typically level

Though of manner quite mild
The cunning wee child
Prepared a surprise for the devil
Who felt thoroughly deceived
As the soul he received
Belonged to the neighbor’s boy, Nevil

Image Credit:


The Respectable Man

In Organizations, Poems, Sociology on December 12, 2010 at 3:51 pm

M. Standfast, Kyoto

Editor’s Note: Here is The Respectable Man.  A decade old, but it stand up pretty well, perhaps.

The respectable man
reflects if he can
but the world won’t wait for reflectors
the respectable man
sits on the can
sits on the board of directors

The respectable man
hawks wares to the clan
who cannot tell shit from shinola
the respectable man
sees a water ban
and irrigates crops with a cola

The respectable man
works on his tan
en route to his room at the Hilton
the respectable man
is pimping a plan
with robust tax-giveaways built-in

The respectable man
spits on his hands
and scurries his way up the ladder
the respectable man
looks over the land
and respectfully empties his bladder

Search Terms II

In Meta, Poems on December 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

M. Standfast, Kyoto

Editors Note: This is the second list of search terms that have led readers to the site.  Glad to see such commonly googled terms such as “cartoon its only til the mail server is back up” continue to drive traffic here at Sympathies.

+”my dinner with andre” +”andre gregory”
“beehive” “my dinner with andre”
follow up to my dinner with andre
neuronal net

neuron flashing
detailed neuron
neuron draw
fly giant neuronn

i can always live in my plays, but i can’t live in my life.
i could always live in my art but never in my life
walter benjamin hashish in marseilles
hashish in marseilles walter benjamin

post modern classicism
post structuralism architecture
structuralism architecture
classicism cartoon

cartoon its only til the mail server is back up
cartoons of structuralism
puritan cartoon
cartoon of an anonymous letter

erving goffman backstage
interaction ritual erving goffman+summary
tearoom trade
erving golffman, public bathrooms

phrophet saul
conversion of paul
paul the apostle
paul the apostle cartoon

forget me not-oldest poems
“man’s self-production is always, and of necessity, a social enterprise”
modern stairs
emerging from an egg

Image credit:

the process has a point of view

In Organizations, Poems, Sociology on November 12, 2009 at 9:44 pm

M. Standfast, Kyoto

the process has a point of view
the process has a plan
it consecrates opinion
of the group or of the man

the process can be tampered with
but one must take great pains
to regard the ghouls that process fronts for
ghouls weighted down with chains

each time we wantonly with process toy
one chain process doth loose
if the ghouls become untethered
we have ourselves cooked goose

blood rites, human sacrifice, motions carried
parliamentary procedures of every kind
serve well to prettify men’s base designs
but their rigidity may insult the mind

so by all means make your end run around
the process, subvert the stated order, bring fresh
thinking but beware the ghouls of process
which will claim their pound of flesh

or better yet submit to process and to “the rules”
establish your credentials and sanctify intent
until you see that form is but an empty suit
and process, when respected, can be bent

Image Credit:

Shard I

In Poems on September 9, 2009 at 10:21 pm

GazePuritano, Kyoto

heart pumped on
cold, reliable
her gaze
hunting past me:
“and have you come
all this way
just to see me?”

Image Credit:

The Taxi Driver

In Poems, Ranting on September 9, 2009 at 10:10 pm

7088851M. Standfast, Kyoto

the taxi driver had no teeth
and did not know his way
soon enough I began to seethe
but knew not what to say

the taxi driver circled the block
and circled round again
I did not know just where we were
but recognized where we’d been

the hapless, toothless taxi driver
took another right
a fear rose up in my chest
this could go on all night

the taxi driver holds his rider
in a kind of cell
when your driver loses the plot
the ride becomes pure hell.

Writing Poetry: Process and Problematics

In Poems on May 16, 2009 at 10:45 pm

c24998-bMatthew Thomas, Kyoto

Note: This post is an amalgam of two smaller pieces, one on the use of rhyme generally in poetry, and the other on the process of putting words down on paper, and why it sometimes goes nowhere.

Part I: On process and stray lines

I feel blessed to have such poets as M. Lyon and Puritano writing intermittently for Sympathies, and on reading their work with care, I find myself fascinated by the process by which we arrive at a fully fledged poem.  I suspect that an evaluation of the process of each one of us will turn up some broad similarities, but also significant differences (how’s that for a cliche?)–and I’d like to start a conversation on process by posting some stray lines of mine that I like but which have never made their way into a finished work.  Each will be illustrated with a comment describing why, despite what I perceived to be their potential, they never led anywhere.  If readers have their own examples of stray lines, free-floating couplets that need a home, it would be great if you would post them along with a comment.

i) The only single poem of mine made of a single couplet is “The Pomegranate.”  It goes like this:

The pomegranate is essential to the sophisticated palate
Far more evolved than onion, watercress or shallot

Comment: Almost everything I have actually managed to get down on paper starts with a flash of language–usually two lines (a couplet), sometimes four lines (a stanza), that come out of nowhere.  From this starting point, there are three possible paths: i) the original lines give me something to build a whole poem around.  The original lines may be, probably are, the best lines in the poem, but the rest of the thing holds it’s own and may rise to the level of being not obviously derivative of the virgin couplet; ii) the couplet or stanza leads to a series of competent, but basically derivative imitations that may add up to a poem, but fails to fully satisfy and cannot even with good conscience be put up on a blog; iii) the couplet or stanza leads me down a series of blind alleys but continues to tease me; it retains an allure, but cannot, by me, be improved on.  Of the third type, only “The Pomegranate” feels truly finished.


I pissed in the toilet
he pissed in the sink
and said ‘I haven’t got a god above
I haven’t got a drink’

Comment: Here I started with a stanza about my roommate freshman year of college, one J. Riordan (and I await his libel suit).  A remarkable man, about whom I have been trying to finish a poem for well over a decade now–but this promising starting point just cannot be bettered, and I’m still stuck.


I knew a sad sad lady
On a diet of silver spoons
She’d sometimes strip for nothing
In the sultry afternoons

Comment: Years ago, and I still like it, but it was only ever pure Leonard Cohen imitation, and suffered as such–here, the flash of insight which produced this minor-league Cohenism could only be followed by a hyper-intentional process of imitation.  This is as far as I got.


I think about my uncle
when my uncle comes to mind

Comment: This morsel of utter nonsense I cannot shake–but what on earth does the poem that could contain these lines look like?  Beats me.


Elevator music in Illinois
a dateless woman with a hand-held toy

Comment: God only knows where this material comes from, but come it does, and what to do with it?  In this case, I had worked up something close to a start of a poem based around the couplet, but it just doesn’t stick–it’s not bad, but…take a look and you’ll see what I mean:

“Half-Empty Spaces”

In a waiting room in Montreal
rages one of my paranoid aunts
muttering threats and curses.
She eviscerates the man down the hall
upturns her potted plants.

A smoking room full of prescient observations
elevator music in Illinois.
Idle entertainments for an idle age
where perversity, dereliction, and public sanitation
wait upon a dateless woman with a hand-held toy.

It is worth emphasizing that these lines are not really any good–and show no improvement whatever over the original two. And yet, considerable work, I am ashamed to say, has gone into trying to massage the material into something usable. No go; good money after bad.

So, that’s my cards on the table. I actually can’t really “write” poetry at all–all I can do is get lucky with a few lines out of the blue and try to shape them into something approaching a poem. But I am interested in other persons’ processes.  Does the above sound all too familiar?  Or is it completely alien?  Let me know.

Part II: On control, M. Lyon, and rhyme

For such a young man, M. Lyon shows both a remarkable control over form and a willingness to take a chance.  The manner in which he implements his rhyme scheme is certainly of interest.  Here is part II of his poem asking for information about me broken down into the underlying rhyme scheme:
Continue Reading

Exchange in Verse Between M. Lyon and M. Thomas

In Communication, Life as Lived, Poems on May 16, 2009 at 9:50 pm
Editor’s Note: For reasons passing understanding, one M. Lyon has decided that Mr. Thomas is a fit subject for a project in romanticization. To his great credit, he sent me a request for information in verse. I have posted his request and my response.
“M. Lyon‘s Project”
M. Lyon
Pt. I

I heard a legend of a man,
a man who was quite great.
He is the focal point of my master plan,
and the reason i’ve cleaned my academic slate.
I once heard he lived in a closet for a year;
only appearing at 4.
This mere fact made my purpose clear,
I must write fiction until I simply can write no more.
Yet there is a barrier in my path:
simple lack of facts.
I need to know some info,
on a thing about your high school days.
I’ve abandoned my pattern,
and probably my meter,
but who gives a crap,
I’m just trying to get some facts.
Did you ever toss a man in a river?
perhaps on his birthday?
In freezing cold Washington,
on a Thursday? Tuesday? Maybe never?
Who’s to say?
All I know is this:
A story is brewing,
about a man who graduated in linen.
The story will forever go incomplete,
if I cannot muster some details.
About your senior year of high school.

Note: This is my response to Mr. Lyon’s project.

“An Open Book”
M.S. Thomas

Not really in the mood
but you’ll think me quite rude
if I don’t make a reply
around me on the plane
folks eat, are entertained
no one’s writing save I

So I’ll take a look back
to days at the dog track
where I ended up by mistake
thought we could beat the odds
just silly teenage sods
there was no money to make

I know not if J.I.
has spun a pack of lies
concerning my personhood
Yes, I wrote poems for girls
who told me they were pearls
ah–but they weren’t any good

About a cold river,
+ the rest of his quiver
of myths and exaggerations
Well…if someone was shoved
it was done out of love
or of congratulations

So to upstate New York
in a trenchcoat–what a dork
but the world took pity
the life there was fine
but naught was on the line
should have gone to the city

I did two things quite well,
needing something to sell
I wrote brilliant excuses
‘bout ridiculous capers,
couldn’t finish my papers
I claimed aces, held dueces

My second great skill
is one I hold still
I fell for crazy ladies
locals, Russians, and Turks
they all drove me beserk
with a boatload of maybes

Four years in the dorms
and countless reforms
led to little of note
I left sans a sob
a plan or a job
and without my trenchcoat

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~

Editor’s Note: We are not intending to make a habit on Sympathies of posting private e-mail communication, but in this case we can’t resist.  Here is M. Lyon’s response to my response to his project.  We will reproduce the poem, which we will use as an excuse for some general comments on meter and rhyme in poetry.

~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~
“M. Lyon‘s Project, II”

M. Lyon

Response in verse was fantastic,
Incredible more, considering location.
In magnitude drastic,
Oregon’s response was enthusiastic.
Wish you had heard J.I’s oration.
Romantic advice taken directly to thy heart.

I write frivolously, igniting amino acids,
All amounting to a considerable summation.
Good? Maybe; hopefully: a classic,
Yet my aims are not so bombastic.
Not all well in our nation,
Swine Flu! Kill it with some marital arts.

“Part about Local Girl” a bit spastic,
managing moments victim of inflation.
She was local, yet smart and sarcastic;
Her views on Hamiltonians* iconoclastic;
At least she provided momentary fixation,
But those girls were sour as stale tarts.

* M.T. and J.I. both attended Hamilton College in the state of New York.