Category Archives: Dharma

A sincere category…

Jekyll/Hyde

fragments from Underworld

Said Will, while pointing to the place he stood,
There’s Henry Jekyll, also known as Hyde.
Though math’s not how he earned his doc’tral hood,
His project was to physic’lly divide
The human soul into the “Bad” and “Good”
And fully feel the power of each side.
It seems his fame’s the sort to always soar
Because his name’s become a metaphor.

 
Of such distinctions, people are quite fond.
Imagined cosmic wars of Right and Wrong
Are something few of us have moved beyond.
We’ve seen in black and white so very long
For fear that existence is a pond
Whose waters flow around the pointed prong
Which, partnered up with Concept’s nimble knife,
Attempts to slice, then pin and label life.

 

 

 

 

DANTE

[from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

We came then to a place where figures scoff
Eternally at those they call “unclean”.
Through verbal clouds of scorn that made me cough,
I spied that justly famous Florentine
Who put in Hell all men who’d pissed him off.
[…I shouldn’t use a phrase so damn obscene
To speak of he who used his words to paint
What Hell is plus a bit of what it ain’t].

Although the cloudy place was poorly lit,
I could perceive that Dante was quite sore,
And Will explained the cause of Dante’s fit:
“The poet, being one whom most adore,
Resents that some aspiring modern wit
Has housed him on the Righteous Scoffers’ Shore.
To Purgatory, Hell, or worlds below,
The Florentine had planned no more to go.

And now he feels as though he’s being mocked
And skewered by a batty youthful hack
[Not even thirty years from being rocked
Inside a cradle; lest he’d meet the rack,
The little lad should keep his dwelling locked
And, as you Yankees say it, watch his back.
[…but shields for blocking blows from weaponry
Don’t stop Assaults by Means of Poetry].

Increasing Dante’s rage, despair, and grief
Is that he’s been removed from Paradise
(To dwell in Hades’) by that scoundrel-thief.
This heathen underworld of fire and ice
Has gained his hate but never his belief.
To clarify, this couplet will suffice:
“I loathe this pagan place,” he oft insists
While still denying that the place exists.

The fruit produced by Dante’s fertile mind—
The works which landed him among the greats—
Include a realm of tortures he designed
[Where, by him, people were to hellish fates
And never-ending pain and woe consigned].
Into the pits of Hell they all were heaved
If not believing as he had believed.

He nonetheless will hold a stubborn grudge
Against this fledgling poet who now dares
To judge the man who likes to play the judge.
Although he whines, his torture’s one that bears
A gentler stamp…he pushed but gets a nudge:
He’s forced to visit all the lonely lairs
Where those condemned before (by him) now dell
[That is, he visits those he sent to Hell].”

Although I didn’t verbally reply,
I thought, “It’s sad but not the least unjust
To see believers in “an eye for eye”
Enraged when that belief in which they trust
Is plucked from dwelling in the holy sky
And brought to where one might perceive its rust.
But soon I had a change of attitude
[Which better fits a kind, compassionate dude].

[It’s only fair to say he does presume
To place some souls in Paradise, as well…
But readers mostly like to read of gloom
And tend to focus on the book of Hell.
(Of Milton’s epics, it’s the one of doom
That English teachers have to learn so well…)
Unless you have an academic post,
The happy books are where your cup might coast.]”

“To My Lucky Readers”

You reading prose and poetry I write
Belong among the fortunate of Earth—
But not because I share profound insight
And not because my work’s of special worth.
Then why? Because some person clearly cared
Enough to see you’d have the skills you’d need
To understand what other minds have shared
And freely water learning’s fertile seed.
The food by which a hungry head’s enriched
Might rest untouched atop your dinner plate
If birth had found you and another switched
By circumstance, a god, or luckless fate.
When filled with pride for all the things you’ve learned,
Reflect on your advantages unearned.

an Elizabethan sonnet by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“First Impressions”

or “Judging Books by their Covers”

A cup in hand, he seemed to beg for change.

I thought him dirty and a little strange

Until he pressed the cup against his lips,

unlocked his car, and took a couple sips.

by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

“THE GRASS IS GREENER”

“The grass enclosed inside a neighbor’s fence
Appears a brighter shade of healthy green
Than that of grass you raise at small expense.
But if you played his* role inside this scene,
You’d think your former ways had made more sense.
[For less possessed is less to tend and clean.]
…The shade of grass won’t matter anyhow,
Unless you are a hungry horse or cow.”

*that of the neighbor. Once again, poetic license is my poor excuse for ambiguity.

[from “A Treasury of Cliches for Aspiring Stars” (which, of course, is part of The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

 

“CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR”

“If you’ll just take a closer, longer look,

You’ll see that juicy, appetizing bait

Conceals a sharp and rust-encrusted hook–

Which neither tastes nor feels too nice or great

To fish it raises from a peaceful brook

And places on a human’s dinner plate.

Unless you’d be a caught and eaten fish,

Proceed with caution when you make a wish.”

[from “A Treasury of Cliches for Aspiring Stars” (which, of course, is part of The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

 

“Sirens”

You quickly cross that peril off the list
Because the danger, you assume, has passed,
But other sets of Sirens still exist
And might enchant you when no ropes or mast
Or loyal friends with wax to stop their ears
Restrain your mad, unquenchable desire
To touch the blazing sun that sears
Without enduring its consuming fire.

It’s easy to resist when you’re in chains
And friendly prison guards can’t hear your voice,
But one who’s absolutely free refrains
When fatal pleasure has become a choice.
Until you’ve walked by foes without your crutch,
Surviving battles doesn’t mean that much.

a sonnet by Paul Burgess