Poetry from Duane Vorhees


The law allows crimes

of forethought or passion.

Playwrights try out lines

and dancers do their actions.

Quiet as dryads

avoiding a giant,

oysters hide their pearls

displayed later on girls.

Belfries have their chimes

and seasons their fashions.

Boldness has its time

but so does discretion.

There were were times I squirrelled

when I should have lioned

and times I lioned

when I ought to have squirrelled.


Shirtless skin carries snow air.

Shoeless, I wear icy earth

when I, rarely, leave my lair,

You perch secure in your church.

Trusting my brow as my shield,

I mustered force at the mouth.

I thrust my tongue like a spear--

your dogma against my truth!

I abhorred your insistence

on self-mortification,

I championed subsistence

and you upheld starvation.

We need manna and diamonds

just because we are humans.

Emperors love their hermits,

who won’t covet royal wealth.

Their hereditary health

rests on strategic remits

to pious institutions,

the prestige of excellence,

and the strength of regiments

to forestall revolution.

Creeds leverage prayers and thanks.

Psychiatry thrives on angst,

and martial glory on rank.

Artistry is fixed by merit,

aristocracy by kindred,

and longevity by spirit.

My heresy, though reasoned,

was opposed by fat scholars.

Artists and philosophers

denounced me as a traitor.

The entire establishment

against me was arrayed,

so I was indeed afraid.

And, soon, my armor was bent,

but it remained unbroken.

I was driven from the field

but was never forced to yield.

I tend unfamined gardens:

We know the rose is the crown

worn upon the throat of thorns.


The sky was perforated

by the moon’s silver bullets

that hit granite’s armor gray

and ricocheted.

Under that wounded mirror

we advanced our tongues like spears

upon our breastworks and flanks

in tight phalanx.

And we held our positions

until the day’s divisions

maneuvered to enhostage

our exhaustion.

But truce is propaganda,

a celibate’s tired banter.

We knights must bare arms and thrust

until we’re dust.


I admit it: I’ve been tempted

by this Temporal.

I have attended all your temples

and confessed all my faults,

and I’ve attempted to chorus

your stories and creeds

by breaking like untamed horses

the sounds in your teeth,

and, in stillness, to contemplate

the shape of my soul

and to decipher its template

in part or in whole.

Your incense, vestments, candles, bells,

and chants fail to steel

your myself against my myself--

are you even real?


Puppets, oblivious to your strings:

Pilots guide us to the best moorings.

Nominees have agreed to debate face-to-face

behind plastic surgery and camouflage

(poets explicate morning’s meanings)

and to present their platforms and programs

comprehensively in sound bites and slogans.

Plaintiffs blame hangovers on mornings.

It is hard to tell sincerity from cant,

(Pirates always give a fair warning.)

but it’s true, positions change with circumstance.

Prophets foretell an end to morning.

--puppets, oblivious to your strings.

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