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Commemorating 70 years since the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure

(For Rachel)

It is her profile which is the poem’s
occasion. So, words, come purposefully,
do not miss the beat, else find yourselves null,
in useless conundrums or misused loam,
without grace, inert. Obsolescence
is not her game. She will not tender it.
Sharp, sensuous, gleam, she is no essence.
No instrument confines her; the artist
has no sovereign territory, but free,
a citizen of beauty, savagely
or sonically. What price is tolled she pays
complete that we might hear pageantry
our own unmastery has left unreal
before her bow rebuilds us beautifully.

(For Hao)

What are the civil rights of the piano
upon which the orchestra articulates
the question Williams posed in a poem,
“Should we think or listen?” Assonance

or dissonance, the rebel humanist
will not adumbrate sound’s perplexities
Creation, why do you begin with C
and not A? The word beginning with A

this backward sonnet requires; reverse!
For how do I adduce the circular
ruses of time and tune? Where begin? And
Where end? So, take you to the heaviest

instrument, resolve this matter, Hao Huang.
Give mercy to it although it be strong.


for Professor Mita Banerjee

She may walk, her rippled blouse taking up
the curves her stride sets in rhythmic motion,
pulling from the filaments of a tone
opened within the sight of unusurped
beauty, purely of pulchritude of form.
We think it is of such qualities made,
but the formulas found in this escape
will not yield a Mita Banerjee mold.
Not color, not tone, not scent, nor any
endeavoring sense but the carefully-tined
result of life as loving and of loving life;
a cliché she is as pretty as a penny
would do more justice than a poorly
summoned sonnet as true as it is unworthy
of its subject. 


Pity! Vanity vainly spent demurs
when pilfered in prosaic ritual.
The academician will not confer
passionate intellectual bents: virtual
knowledge is preferable to advancement
whether of science or of poetry.
A rhyming tradition’s here relevant
where retrospection rehearses weekly
stodgy, stale, and decomposing truths.
Baudelaire’s moribund lover, his whores,
would be banned again! (The censurer’s sooth
surreptitiously subsists.) In the stores
where professors go to purchase progress
thought-laundering is collegiate business.

(To M)

A bright-eyed boy came a September day
in nineteen ninety four as was prophesied
by a shaven monk who urged us prepare,
be careful. There will be complications.

Devices the doctors brought to the bed
registered distress. Anesthesia
forsook the opportunity that I
would be the first to see him, besotted

with birth stains. A cleaner introduction
took place and worry was the way I saw
my motherhood commence. Fragile exile
of my uterus, now free and strong you

tread your place. Recall your first survival
and when the world you enter, go careful.


¡Ah, musilla traviesa
Qué vuelo trae!
José Martí

But no less astonishing for your birth
date. You come to my desk, evacuate
the pockets of your Levi 504’s.
Among your collection: receipts, bubble
gum wrappers. Each item contains some touch
left by your smallish soft fingers. Your face
yet has only tender down hair, hardly
visible at all. There was a poet
who said it full. You are my mischievous
muse! The kisses you plant on both my cheeks
are a tympanic splendor for your mother.
Each one cures a thousand aches. Such ratios
only you can deliver. Reggio,
their is a hint of royalty in your lint.

(To Committee X)