Poetry Blog by Randy Horton

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A New riddle of Induction

This poem will mean more if you are familiar with the work David Hume and Nelson Goodman.

We have such unfounded confidence that
The future will be like the past that
We are constantly disappointed in the
Present. The future betrays us daily.

So I can’t be blamed for thinking you’d
Be here still—as you always were.
Thousands of observations told me
You were a survivor and, besides,


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A Pattern of Substance Misuse in Rural Texas

You were always object lesson,
Never role model, and I only knew
I should never be like you.
Your death was early and tragic,
As expected, your last conscious
Moments spent reaching for the door
Of a home engulfed in flame.

Through tear-filled eyes,
Those who had nothing but
Criticism for you when alive
Expressed their own shock and
Grief with a final tinge of judgment.
“If it had an...

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A Belabored Gardening Metaphor

Fertility varies from place to place.
In my hometown, cilantro would take over
The yard if you weren’t careful. Some
People don’t like the smell, but I loved
The fragrant flood of mulch and pollen
Whenever I mowed. (It was the only joy
I found in mowing.) A cilantro haze
Always encircled by volunteer chilis
Standing as spicy sentinels guarding
The perimeter of the lawn with indifference.


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Whistling in the Dark

God is watching over us,
They say.
When we feel afraid,
Grateful or anxious,
We look to the sky
For reassurance,
Hoping for protection,
Or tender mercy.

Hope lies only in the sky.
Fear burrows under our feet.
The lost wanderer is afraid
To look down and advised to look up.

So believers are blessed
With good posture.

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Meandering Metaphors as Rivers

The Mississippi River is a metaphor for life,
Mostly because Samuel Clemens made it so.
At least that’s what you would’ve learned
In your literature class—that a huge, meandering
River held the secrets of innocence, knowledge,

Guilt, and wisdom. So much is hidden under
The surface, see, and so much changes as you
Drift along. You may start your journey with
A piece of property and end it...

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Climate Catastrophe: Pandemic and Pestilence

Epidemiologists and public health ethicists have been grappling for some time with the near certainly of widespread disease pandemics resulting from climate change. Changes in non-human animal migration and human migration will bring extant pathogens to new populations as warming releases long dormant pathogens on the world once again. Large swaths of the population could be wiped out in an incred...

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Climate Catastrophe: The Reckoning

Before the reckoning,
The water was like glass.
We would glide
Across the surface,
Staring into the deep
As naïve as a recently
Birthed Godzilla,
Never knowing what
Destruction our
Mutation might bring.

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A Bifurcated Analysis of Overly Indulgent Self-Reference and Metacriticism

I don’t like all your self-referential poems and
Confessional narratives where you just go on and
On and on with your boring anxieties and
Insights into a meaningless existence.
I mean, just like the time you said

She floated on an azure sky and
Had lips that made the rain seem dry.
It started as a conventional statement of
A poet who likes women with moist lips,
But then you had to go ...

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Democracy Died

Democracy died in the Senate chamber
When Supreme Court justice was never heard
Through a guileless force of legal obstruction.
Respect for law fell like old holiday garland.
A complacent nation did not demur,
Thinking true fascism could not recur,
Power transferred to a political poseur.
A complacent nation watched it’s legal destruction
And Democracy died.
They quickly forgot what they ...

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On Perusing a Dictionary of Modern English Usage as It Pertains to Suffering

Deferring to the OED, Fowler’s* tells us not
To spell “inure” as “enure” for variant
Spellings are not needed; even if “inure”
Has two meanings, it is still only one word.
But who ever heard of “inure” relating to
Anything but some form of suffering?

Something quite beautiful and useful
Might well be put “in ure,” which just
Means we like this well enough to
Make a habit of it, and that...

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Poetry and the Cross-Pollination of Artistic Platforms

When people see a spectacular dancer,
They say, “Oh, that’s poetry in motion!”

And then they might see a moving painting,
And say, “That painting says it all—It’s like a poem!”

And good musicians are just considered poets.
I mean, Bob Dylan won a God-damned Nobel Prize
In literature, didn’t he?

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve heard motorcycle
Races described at “pure poetry in action...

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The Best Way to Grieve for a Child

They never changed that room.
Dolls, teddy bears, trains,
And transformers all hold space,
Lock time in perpetual stasis.
When death comes life stops.

Family said they should pack
Things away. It’s too hard
To be reminded day after day
Of a future lost in the past,
But a room can be a memorial.

It’s a museum of childhood,
Until a child of a later
Generation discovers it with

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On Bodily Autonomy and Geriatric Femininity

They never ask, the old ladies.
They just hug, pinch, kiss and
Cuddle at will. Babies are theirs,
You know, and they do love them
So much. I guess it isn’t their fault,
No one ever told them they aren’t
Free to touch at will. I once told
A woman to get her hands out of
My hair, and she said no man
Had ever asked her to stop
Touching him before. As an old
Lady, I’m sure she became anothe...

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babiesbodily autonomyconsentfemininityfeminismtouching

The Burdened Bookshelf as Will and Representation

Each mover, save one Renaissance man
Of fellow feeling, complained of the books
And the bookshelves to display them.
Why would anyone move these thousands
Of miles and from house to house when
They are so obviously rarely used?

But the bookshelves, fully loaded, serve a purpose:

For starters, they tell anyone curious enough to look
Where and how my intellectual development has unfolded...

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The Impact of Utilitarianism on Unsuspecting Feet

The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to use a homophone or homonym. I can’t take credit for the example, which was offered by a former student.

After her purported reading
Of Jeremy Bentham,
She said he believed
She should do whatever
Made her happy.
For example,
She should spend
Her paycheck on new shoes,
Because they will be good
For her sole.

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The Magic and Mystery of Ministry

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Know how in the 1970s the televangelists
All had perfectly sculpted and blow-dried hair?
Well, my Daddy was at least partly responsible
For all that glitz and fancy get-up.

He didn’t do hair for anyone as famous
As Pat Robertson or Jim Bakker, but
Styled hair for some big traveling evangelists
Like Gene Williams. These guys would take the
Word of God around the world, but come back
To G...

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christianityevangelistsglopowrimohair stylingnapowrimoreligion

On the Disastrous Art of Losing

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On our first meeting, she

Described me as a “near Buddhist,”

Meaning, of course, that I had

The ascetic qualities of a monk.


And it was true that Siddhartha

Helped me lose my appreciation

For things. You learn first that

Attachment is suffering.


But Elizabeth Bishop was more

On my mind. Like her, I had

Lost things every day, and

Most of them didn’t matter...

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Texas Tornadoes and the Power of Prayer

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Oh, Good Lord, y’all, I thank we better git in the house. That sky is darker than Brother Jimmy’s sermon last Sunday, and it’s flashing like a God-damned disco. It’s gonna be a gully washer, all right, but Ronnie’s got the big truck if we git in any trouble, and we can surely trust Jesus will be with us. The last time we had a toad strangler like this, a big ol’ twister turned Alma’s roof inta too...

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Life, Love, and Leaving in Livingston, Texas

In a previous century my grandfather died

Only weeks after my great uncle.

A few weeks later, my grandmother

Made a quick trip to the grocery store

And returned to find her house in flames.


Having lost her brother, husband, and home

In a matter of weeks, my uncle Skeet

(so known because as a child he was

No bigger than a mosquito or “skeeter")

Tried to comfort his s...

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On the Destructive Power of Measureable Learning Objectives

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Day 8 of NaPoWriMo asks us to write poetry using the jargon of our professions (or someone else’s profession). As a philosophy instructor, my only learning objective was to destroy the smug and self-satisfied confidence my students had in their own knowledge. Petty of me, I know.

On the Destructive Power of Measureable Learning Objectives

Your destruction is both
Achievable and measurable

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If Gratitude Were Horses, We'd Never Fear A Stampede

Today's NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a contemplation on gifts and giving. I read Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on gifts when I was in high school, and it has stayed with me all these years. Emerson definitely had his moments as an essayist.


“The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


The gift is always some sort of recriminati...

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Accepting an Infinite Regression of Causes

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The prompt for day six of NaPoWriMo was to write a poem dealing with counterfactual conditionals, as it were. Here is mine:

Accepting an Infinite Regression of Causes

If only life had come into being
On different terms, according to a different template.

If pain weren’t the primary motivating factor
For keeping life propelling itself forward,

If the best of all possible worlds weren’...

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On The Odd Quality of Trumpets in the Mist

There should be the sound of trumpets, thin and mournful

As we emerge in mist and set off on our journey.

We’ll make song, laughter, and love seem normal.


It’s only a walk. We won’t be won’t be beaten and forlorn, so

We can rise up and never be brought to our knees.

There should be the sound of trumpets, thin and mournful.


We won’t be stopped, though we know we’re only ...

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The Distinct Challenges of Hyperfocus

Straddling a life between town and country,

I remember you once stood on a snake.

You never saw it as we were shouting,

Until you moved and it slithered away.

Once you walked into a concrete column,

As I told you to hurry and catch up.

But you were focused and a little solemn,

Just searching for green anoles close up.

So many times you fell into a pond,

And I had to pull...

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The Unintended Consequences of Complimentary Behavior

He made a clumsy compliment,

And it was taken for an insult.

Immediately, he tried to explain

The misunderstanding, but

He was told to “stop digging.”


And so it was.

He wasn’t in love, exactly,

But he admired her

Constantly and consistently.

He spoke highly of her to colleagues

And mutual acquaintances,

Hoping to eventually mend the rift,

He overcompensated...

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The Unreasonable Demands of April

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No, it’s true, April does not

Arrive as a grim reaper

Coming to take souls

Off to underground rivers

In the waste land

Or anything like that.

On first glance, April

Is a reprieve, new life

Is in abundance, and

We step out and look up

For the first time in awhile.


Now we can rouse ourselves.

Lift ourselves from bed

And go out into the world.


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Pretty Messy Things

The poetry is pretty perhaps,

And some may appreciate the aesthetics

While being put off by the messiness

Of the content, preferring a tidy theme.

And maybe you could clean it up

A bit to avoid making the prigs uncomfortable.

Say something about flowers by the seaside,

For example, and let us forget people have sex.

And let’s forget about messy conflict

In relationships,...

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Not Drowning but Waving (apologies to Stevie Smith)

I saw you in the market

And I gave a little wave

To give you a slight greeting,

But you didn’t see me,

So I gave an exaggerated wave

To get your attention, which worked.

You saw me and thought I was

Motioning for help, so you shouted,

“Help! Someone please help that man.

He may be having a heart attack.”

In horror, I started waving both arms

Excitedly to indicate t...

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drowningstevie smithwavingwe're okay

Call for Submissions: New Mills Festival Poetry Trail

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For the second time, the New Mills Festival will host a poetry trail filled with verse ranging from the silly to profound. Accepted poems will be displayed in shop windows around New Mills for the duration of the festival (13 – 29 September 2019). The theme of the festival is “The Elements – Earth, Air, Water and Fire.“ Poems reflecting the theme are encouraged, but poems on other themes are also ...

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The Kids are Proper Communists

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I’ve always supported freedom and equality

I wanted minorities to have equal opportunity.

I believed in promoting a liberal social order,

Showing non-aggression and peace at the border.

I wanted to teach the world to live in perfect harmony,

So that our new Utopia would all be down to me,

But my kids are proper communists,

They want to overthrow the state.

They will give ev...

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Language and Viruses

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Some writers use poetry

To propound great thoughts

Through deeply intoned vowels,

But poetry is only language,

And you can use it as if

Chatting with a friend

About passing days

And pastimes.

You can pull them in,

Get a laugh or two,

And make them

Trust you

Before thrusting

The knife deep

Into the abdomen,

Drawing it up

Toward the eyes,

As you let...

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A New Riddle of Cosmology

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An explosion beyond comprehension sent all

The ingredients of the cosmos careening through the void.

Light, matter, and energy diffused chaotically,

Taking billions of years (as we now know them)

To fall into some kind of order, to establish

Some vaguely predictable interactions of

Cosmic proportion. Somehow, trillions of

Particles began to cooperate to form

Molecules of ca...

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What if the hyperreal really isn’t real,

And the news never happened?


Our perceptions are just pixels, photons,

Bits and bytes scattered on a screen.


Gods and monsters both just

Misapprehensions of a troubled mind.


But whose mind is responsible for

The anxiety provoking representation?


Surely some eternal consciousness

Has not conspired to create in y...

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