Poems May 2023
By degrees (ghazal)
Tulips and iris broadcast the spring by degrees—
the temperature ascending by degrees.
The sun makes an acute, then right, then obtuse angle
with the east, and the days begin by degrees.
A man stops me on the street to ask directions.
I stutter, and the words slowly ring by degrees.
Junior Mints at the megaplex, and brûlée at
the brasserie—you and I had a fling by degrees.
Light sleeper, cinnamon sprinkler, emoji addict—
I stuck to your static cling by degrees.
From army stripes to sideburns and starbursts,
even Elvis became the King by degrees.
My friend’s sister’s roommate once delivered a pizza
to Kevin Bacon, making us all kin by degrees.
From kindergarten to university gardens,
my résumé lists where I’ve been by degrees.
The rain softens from a stampede to a tiptoe,
and the storm clouds overhead thin by degrees.
My train heads one way and yours, across the platform,
in another, as we stare, parting by degrees.
Bowling ball to the neighbor, dead plant to the mud—
consign away what you cannot bring by degrees.
Any advice for the ghazal-hearted, Adam?
Modify the refrain, and sing by degrees.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 41 Number 9, on page 32
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