Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Sappho Fragments (1 & 2)

For those who are interested, join us in our reading of Sappho.

”                            And fine birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth
whipping their wings down the sky
through midair-

they arrived.”

From Fragment 1

“And in it cold water makes a clear sound through
apple branches and with roses the whole place
is shadowed and down from radiant-shaking leaves
sleep comes dropping.

And in it a horse meadow has come into bloom
with spring flowers and breezes
like honey are blowing.”

From Fragment 2

Anne Carson’s If Not Winter: Fragments of Sappho




Wednesday’s Choice


You were
educated at the best places
money could buy
so in the bank
when you aimed point blank
at the tellers
you told them
you had nothing against them
but the state.

Being caught
and sentenced
you’re no longer able to
or hone your language skills
but the fabric of your being
still believes in your right to attend
business classes.

are in short supply
as the city burns,
and one no longer need imagine
the power
privilege brings.

Wednesday’s Choice

This will be the last of the Haydn pieces. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed them, and they will encourage you to listen to more of his wonderful work.

A Perfectly Good Apple

A Perfectly Good Apple
That Halloween
rumors had spread
of razors and pins
so when you got home
you glanced inside
your bag of treats
with suspicion.

Shadows danced about
the poker you grabbed
to split open
one of the things you’d gotten.

Wednesday’s Choice

In ‘Nam

In ‘Nam
In ‘Nam
what they don’t tell you.

enemy are more
then you’ll ever understand.

Eyes that blaze
like mortar fire.

Souls that rot
In the undergrowth.

Wednesday’s Choice

Here is Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76, no 4, called the Sunrise:

The Basement

The Basement
Rats rattle
the drainpipes
the musty basement
where the smell of
cigars in boxes
and workshop wood shavings

From the backyard trees,
bugs have come
making the place feel
anything but safe.

Teeth smash
and shatter
on the hard granite floor.

Pool balls are thrown
in senseless rage.

Wednesday’s Choice

We all have perceptions of a particular composer’s sound. The more I listen to Haydn the more I understand he has many voices, and like that line in the New Testatment says, none are without meaning.

This symphony written between 1771-1772 has been called the grandfather of the 5th, which Beethoven began working on some 30 years later.


Coffee Cup

Wednesday’s Choice

The First Thing We Do

The First Thing We Do
Jack would do
for anyone
you were told.

So you waited
in his lobby
interested to hear
what information
he might provide.

From a plaque on the wall
a Bible verse stated
obedience to God
would bring about good governance.

A painting of Washington
kneeling on the banks
of the Delaware

As for your mother,
she’d already crossed
the Rubicon.

Jack’s secretary,
who’d earlier
her father, too,
was suffering from
and had expressed such
told you coldly,
“He can’t see you.”

No jot and tittle
means sympathy’s
in short supply.

The Button

The Button
Red is
for danger.

A fire
that sweeps away
in its path.

Unable to understand
the cost,
she pushed it with
renewed determination.

Wednesday’s Choice

From Haydn’s The Creation – The Overture (The Representation of Chaos):


Of the Wednesdays to follow

As I’m sure you’re all aware, music has always been important to me; I really can’t imagine life without it.  Usually I go through phrases where I listen to a particular kind of music or artist.  But through the years there has always been a constant.: Haydn.  It’s a rare day indeed when I don’t listen to Papa. For the foreseeable future, the idea is to share with you some of the treasures I’ve found.  Whether you agree with the following statements or not, I do hope you’ll come along and enjoy the journey.

“It’s not holy music, it’s like you and me; it’s very human and shows very normal feelings. More so than Beethoven. I feel better as a person and better in my life when I play Haydn. All art is about searching for answers about what happens after death. Haydn is the one who says, ‘I don’t have the answer, but it’s good, so who cares?'”

Adam Fischer from the Guardian article, The great Haydn road trip

“Haydn is the music of the future still. The true extent of his greatness is for the connoisseur a well-kept secret, for the larger public a ticking time-bomb that has yet to go off. When its hour comes, the explosion, rather than a Big Bang, will be a still small voice telling of the strange within the normal, the vast within the modest, the dark within the bright and vice versa: the essence of human experience in essentially musical terms.”

from Robin Holloway’s On Music: Essays and Diversions



Sketch 3 (W&S): The Family Cow

Sometimes things take you by surprise. You might have been in a restaurant with a friend and gone to the salad bar only to return to find someone sitting in your spot and wearing your glasses. Or maybe you were traveling and had an unexpected encounter.

I think most people who have done any amount of hitchhiking will tell you that you’re about as unlikely to be picked up by someone who takes their holiday in Martha’s Vineyard as you are by those who spend their summers in the Hamptons. It’s safe to say your rides will come from either the middle or the working classes so it’s probably wise to hide that patrician accent of yours.

We had crossed our way into Wyoming and for the life of us weren’t able to get a ride. When hitchhiking, there are times of scarcity (eight hours and only eight-three miles) and then prosperity (the next ride, one thousand six hundred and sixty-six miles). We’d been on the side of the road for a spell and were just looking to get a little closer to our destination. That is not to say we didn’t periodically slip into the woods for a smoke before returning out again to brave the passing traffic.

When the old school bus pulled over, and the door opened, we were met with a decidedly unpleasant odor. I looked at my cousin with concern. He just said, “We can hardly be turning down rides.”

I took it in all very quickly and this from someone who nearly always take a very long time to register anything. The grinning driver with his Van Dyke. His pregnant wife. The young girl lying on a mattress in a feverish state. Two children playing with toy soldiers. The bus was packed with all of their earthly possessions.

All of us use our experiences to try and make sense of things. That’s why when we heard a sound we thought the kids had one of those toys where after you select the barnyard animal of your choice, you hear a cackle, grunt, or moo as the case may be. However, when we spotted something moving, we realized it was their cow.  To say we were startled would have been an understatement.

Wednesday’s Choice

Bradbury and the Gray Ponytail

Bradbury and the Gray Ponytail
From the classroom
like some absurd geometric shape
supposed to make sense,
the clouds hung bleak,
frozen breath pierced the air.

A smell of chalk
came from the blackboard
where she stood
probing stories
you were given to read,
which allowed you to feel
through the written word
an optimism
of possibility in the

Thanks to Don for a comment he made that got me thinking about two teachers I had, one of whom this poem is about.



It was a vast wasteland,
where he shone
in living color on the screen.

He was not the bespectacled
whose superior attitude
and vocabulary is
somehow meant to impress
not inform,
whose speech patterns
make you want to roll your eyes
though you never really could.

His hair and style of dress
seemed out of place,
but he had a hearty laugh
and chortled
when things tickled his fancy
as often they did.

Comfortable in his skin,
he was without pretense,
asking questions of guests
you’d never see
anywhere else
and different views
came to you
through a blur of smoke.

Wednesday’s Choice

The Bane of the Blooming Moon

The Bane of the Blooming Moon
In a cottage
at the end
of a trail of tears
a newborn baby
was cradled in a doctor’s arms

Beside himself
with terror,
the father snatched the boy,
and raced outside.

With an axle
he crushed the icy lake surface
and plunged the child in.

It came out crying.

The old rancher
with uncouth manners
looked upon the tiny infant
and predicted its demise,
but it had other ideas
fighting off the convulsions
that wracked his body,
the temperatures
nothing but a bathtub of ice
could dispel.

With his parents
traveling the vaudeville circuit
he slept in the drawers of cheap hotels,
was cared for by chorus girls

At seven,
his mother,
the singer,
took a very public dose
of mercury
though her marriage
and career

As he retraced the steps
to his ancestral home,
clouds dispersed
and the moon transformed
the disconnect
between words and thoughts,
shadows at the bottom of his soul.

The church bells chimed
across the makeshift bases
set up in a field
of weeds and thistles.

Near the swamp
a wildcat’s back arched
to the sky
as if to ward off evil.


Boldly proclaiming with
declarative force
everything ever
has been understood.
Whether simple or complex
is of little regard
as long as you follow
the tenets laid down.

Thanks to Jessica Ryan for her post that inspired it.

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: Jean Toomer

Storm Ending by Jean Toomer
Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads,
Great, hollow, bell-like flowers,
Rumbling in the wind,
Stretching clappers to strike our ears . . .
Full-lipped flowers
Bitten by the sun
Bleeding rain
Dripping rain like golden honey—
And the sweet earth flying from the thunder.

Wednesday’s Choice

An Invitation to Read

If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Why not join us?  If you like, visit thedancingprofessor and express your interest.


The Great Barrier Reef, 1945

The Great Barrier Reef, 1945
At twenty-two
I awoke
at dawn
with a coffee and a cigarette
to greet
a brilliance of colors
and a flotilla of ships
stretching the expanse
like a yawn.

The Last Thing

The Last Thing
The last thing
I saw
before my eyes fell ill
was the small pillow
she bought for me
with full blue waves
and white houses
lining the shore.

Wednesday’s Choice

A Flat-Bed Ford

Lyrics aren’t always what you imagine them to be. Perhaps like me, you’ve misunderstood a line or two.  What the Lizard King was wailing was actually, “If you give this man a ride, sweet memory will die.”

Even if you do happen to understand the words correctly you may not know what all of them mean.  I’ll confess being none the too wiser to the meaning of turnpike in Simon and Garfunkel’s lovely America.  And I’ve only just realized what a flat-bed Ford looks like; it is not at all what I imagined.

1960_Ford_F-100_(6273194496)(Photographer: OSX II )

Who is the Man of a Thousand Faces?

320px-Keanu_Reves_in_Mexico_2(Photographer: Ron whisky)


Nicholas_Cage_-_KirkWeaver(Photographer: Megapixie)


From the microphone
they blast
aimed at selling
desperate people

Pigeons fly
shunning the wind
as it blows canopies,
leaving in their wake
remnants of a voyage,
which must be cleaned if
you’re to get any work done.

Hot water
does the trick
and makes you think
your fingers may be safe again,
but the keyboard
no longer responds to
your touch.

Wednesday’s Choice

W&S Sketch II: The Crab Apple Tree

For those who don’t have Water and Silt, the poem I’ll be talking about can be found here accompanied by John Spiers’ drawing.

Raised in the suburbs, I knew only a little of the difficulties my parents faced growing up.  My mom’s parents were immigrants, and she was a child of the city surrounded by a mix of Irish, Italian, and French-Canadians, all struggling as best they could in a new country at a time in which things were terrible economically. My dad grew up on a farm so in many ways had it easier, and while only only eight miles from the downtown area, it might have been hundreds.

Since my maternal grandmother died when I was only seven,  I have few memories of the farmhouse with its ornate curtains and the sun pouring in through the windows. I can remember sitting on a slope that led up to the cornfields talking with a cousin. Another time dancing about as the marvelous seedpods from a maple twirled like helicopters as they fell. Near the large oak with the tire swing was another tree, and all about its trunk in a circular pattern were crab apples, which I examined to see whether they had holes before brushing one against my t-shirt and biting into it, tasting a tartness that remains with me to this day.



The Bear

The Bear
Straitlaced Sam
while we were all on stage
countless vaudeville acts
and that bear,
which must have been
nine-feet tall,
came out
as we were playing the sax,
and swooped its paw
over our heads
but the rest of us
didn’t react
being too high
to notice.

Your license, please.

For those who haven’t seen, worth a watch.  You can’t win for losing.


Although the universe
may not weigh anything -
positives and negatives
equaling each other out -
it is refreshing to know
the chemical element
of which so much matter consists,
which makes balloons float
and voices sound funny,
was there in just the
first few minutes.


Wednesday’s Choice


If you find yourself on a river, 800px-Acheron_river_2(Photographer: Samuli Lintula)

and close your eyes,220px-Gustave_Dore,_The_Divine_comedy,_Inferno,_plate_9,_Charon,_The_Ferryman_of_Hell(Gustave Doré)

make sure you have ready a honey cake to pacify.Cerbere(Gustave Doré)

The Catwalk

The Catwalk
He hung out mainly
by the trash bin,
which he’d jump inside
with such ease
it could have been
specially designed for him.

Instead of a smile
he wore a
whiskers unarranged.

His walk was such
you were sure he felt
everyone in his wake
would quiver.

But two weeks ago
when we saw him last
his sturdy body
had become
tragically frail.

We expect he’s gone
to some
out of the way place
where it’s said
cats go
when they know
their time has come.

Wednesday’s Choice

“‘Alabama’ is a composition written by John Coltrane that appears on his album Live at Birdland (1963). It was written in response to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, an attack by the Ku Klux Klan in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls.”

- Wikipedia entry for Alabama (John Coltrane song)

Our Mid-Month’s Poet: William Blake

The Tiger by William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And, when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Change of Policy

No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service. That’s not a real policy, is it?

I’ve decided to disable the like button on all posts from now until the Day of the Lord.  I hope you’ll still visit and comment if you like.

If I do get likes (from the Reader), it will happily bring to mind:

“Suppose it were the life-view of a religiously existing subject that one must not have a  disciple, that this is treason to both God and men; suppose he were also a little foolish (for if it takes a little more than mere honesty to make one’s way in the world, then stupidity is always necessary for real success and to have many properly understand you) and said this directly, with unction and pathos, what then? Well, yes, he would indeed be understood. Soon ten would apply, asking to be engaged just for a free shave once a week to preach this doctrine; i.e., and as further confirmation of the doctrine’s truth, he would have had the extraordinary good luck to acquire disciples who accepted and spread this teaching about having no disciples.”

- Soren Kierkegaard – Concluding Unscientific Postscript

Wednesday’s Choice

Billy Martin

Billy Martin
At the little league park
where he graciously signed his name
he was different than
the times you saw him
from the bleachers
charge the pitcher’s mound
to argue
like one sees in drunken brawls
kicking a cloud of dust
into the face of the umpire
who himself part of an act
not far from pantomime
rotated his arm
like the hands of a clock.

A Certain Sound

A Certain Sound
Before his cadaver was on the gurney,
the life had already drained
from his face.

His once fleshly cheeks
stretched tightly,
no unused vein remained.

Only those around him knew
what lurked behind
that dreamy look.

Jazz lost a certain sound
but the world
by all accounts
was spared.

Wednesday’s Choice

Sketch 1: Water and Silt

Today’s poem can be found in my new collection or in accompaniment with John Spiers’ wonderful sketch.

My dad was a dreamer, a word that some people (not anyone here I’m sure) use dismissively. I never have.

He had many dreams and while this was not by any means the most important, it was one that had a direct impact on the way I view life.

All dreams don’t come true, of course. The rain does fall on the just and on the unjust.

Although my dad mainly made map and roads, he did on occasion put up buildings.  The particular ones in question were townhouses, which were not then the ubiquitous phenomena they are now.  There was every reason to believe the development would  be a success. Its location would be just a short commute into the metro area once the proposed freeway was completed.

But then the 1974 US recession took place and the freeway was delayed.

The comfortable life I had led was no more.

No, it wasn’t the Appalachian poverty you read about in Winter’s Bone but our new home was very old and in very bad shape, and though I always had something to eat, we ate what we could afford, and during that four-month period we consumed more eggs than we probably should have mainly because they came free from the ornery hens in the chicken coop in back.

It was difficult being uprooted, and I absolutely hated my time spent there. However, now that I’m much older (in fact, the same age as my dad was then), I can appreciate that the experience gave me an understanding I might not have had otherwise. Empathy is important as is a willingness to lend a hand.  There but for the grace of God go I.



Concerning the Sketches

Having already equaled the number of Hercules’ labors without even lifting a finger, I have decided to do the same with my second collection of poems, Water and Silt.

Wednesday’s Choice

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