Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Bird Woman of Cardinal Drive*



We’ll just say that there is a woman in this costume. All the pictures that showed a woman in a cardinal costume were not fit to post on a family blog. I want to keep my PG rating.

On my way to Food Lion

I came upon a woman

Walking in the middle

Of Cardinal Drive

Like a bird,

But she didn’t just walk like a bird;

She looked like a bird.

Her short reddish hair stuck up in back

Like a cardinal’s on a bad hair day.

Small and light, she wore

Red slacks and a white blouse

And she held her arms out

Diagonally with her hands at right angles

As if they were wings and

She was trying to fly.

She skittered along

Never gaining altitude

Oblivious to me and my car

In her own world

A world of soft breezes,

Clear skies

Berries and seed in season

And a long road to glide along

And try to soar

And try to soar.


*The name of the street has been changed to protect this lady’s identity. There is no Cardinal Drive in Manassas. There is one, however, in Dale City, but I’ve never driven on it.


Dan Verner

March 16, 2016

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Metaphor of Obligation

Perseus Cluster

The Perseus Cluster, 250 million light years from Earth.

The meeting of minds is akin to

Great continents sliding, overriding

Each other

Moving incrementally,

Interlocking fractaled inlet, cove and bay

So that









In the Perseus Cluster

A black hole sings

A single B flat note

Fifty-seven octaves below

Middle C,

The lowest sound

In the universe.

This celestial song

Serves a purpose.

These sound waves

With a frequency of ten million years

Transport energy that

Warms the cluster

Which, in turn,

Regulates the rate of

New star formation

And the evolution of galaxies.


Such is the meeting of minds.


Dan Verner

March 16, 2016

(For more on the Perseus Cluster and its sound, go to )

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The End of an Era

Light Bulbs

I believe that changes come not with the

Fall of empires or

The turning of revolutions,

Threats of unnamed disaster or

The specter of social upheaval

But through tiny incremental changes that seem

Insignificant at the time:


The hub-and-spoke system for air carriers,

Mobile phones,

And too much else to mention.

Today a twenty-eight year streak came to an end


I ran out of incandescent light bulbs.

They hadn’t been available for two years, and

Some people stockpiled them,

But I didn’t and I also didn’t object to

The faults of early CFL’s—

Their unconventional design,

Their gradual buildup to a full light,

Stark blue-white tinged with yellow,

A light that unlike anything found in nature,

But they improved

And it was hard to tell which was which

Unless you looked at the corkscrew tubing

That reminded me of a pig’s tail.

Sprouting from the base of the bulb.

Halogens washed over us next,

Along with LED’s, sub-ends of ends of eras.


And so I climbed my short ladder to replace

Two burned out incandescents

In the ceiling fan lights and

Found I had only one replacement bulb.

I went to the Rices Hardware a little dizzy

From all the techno names of the bulbs,

Fully expecting to buy a pigtail bulb

But found instead a CFL that looked like

An incandescent,

So if I squint

I can pretend that incandescent bulbs have not vanished

But undergone a metamorphosis, a strange transformation of sorts,

And they’re still here

But don’t tell anyone.

It will be

Our little secret.


Dan Verner

March 11, 2016




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Blues in the Key of B (for the Bassoon)


Versatile instruments,
Bassoons may sound like a cello played by an angel
One minute and an eight-hundred-pound cat
Looking for canaries the next.
(They have been compared to potato guns, bongs,
And farting bedposts. No lie.
I heard a work for four bassoons
And the only thing I could think
Was, I wonder what they had for lunch.
Must have been good.
I know I should have been concentrating on the music,
But I couldn’t help it. It was just so funny
And all I could do not to laugh.)
They’re devilishly hard to play
Four feet five inches tall,
But don’t be deceived:
Under that finish as black as
An undertaker’s suit
Lies double trouble.
Bassoon hold within their depths
A sound tube extending from the bell
Down to the boot (or butt) which
Folds over on itself to reach toward
The bocal, the wing joint, and finally, the reed.
Shiny chrome keys cling to the dusky barrel
The whole length of the diabolical assembly,
Tempting young musicians to come and play,
Promising easy play, popularity and fame
All of which are unlikely for most players.
They must be quick, especially with their thumbs
If they are to play well. And to play superbly they must
Cover some tone holes partially, some fully,
And they may find their fingers simply can’t move that fast
And they have to play the saxophone.
There’s no shame in that: it’s just a matter of physiology, neurology,
Persistence, and possession of the instrument by some evil force.
Not everyone can fight that.
Some can, of course, and practice long hours and endure all sorts of deprivations,
Headaches and stiff fingers and making reeds.
Reeds are the bane of every woodwind player’s existence.
Players may buy reeds, but most prefer to make their own from cane.
One extraordinary bassoonist I know
Uses Glotin cane that she orders from Maryland.
She says, “Double reeds are a PAIN!”
She puts them in her mouth so that they don’t dry out,
These temperamental babies who are like babies.
If the water is too hot, the reeds open up and won’t play.
If it’s too cold, they close up and won’t play.
They don’t like (in no particular order)
Humidity, dryness, changes in location
And they sometimes won’t play
For no reason at all.
That’s why she carries several reeds in various stages.
As if playing the instrument wasn’t hard enough
Bassoonists have to maintain their reeds
On the fly.
It’s remarkable that any of them can
Play at all.
But they do
And, in the right hands
It’s beautiful.
Just beautiful.

Dan Verner
March 11, 2016


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All Time Is One

Stoa at Athens

That’s what I thought as I walked

Through the colonnade-like structure

A stoa of sorts

Along the front wall of the Giant food store

In the Westgate Plaza Shopping Center

On the busy suburban six-lane Route 234

On a chilly March afternoon.

The shopping center,

A strip mall really, has no plaza that I can find.

The developers must have liked the sound of it,

Had wanted to jazz it up a bit.

It is euphonious,

A gold star for euphony, then,

For you, faceless and unknown developers.

So, no plaza but

A stoa, and a small one at that,

About fifty feet long

With three lintels eight feet up

Held by a brick post on one side and

A brick wall on the other,

Barely the width of a shopping cart.

No arches, but I was somehow

Minded of the stoa at Athens where

Zeno the Stoic met his students

Except here instead of ancient Greeks in tunics

(Who didn’t know they were ancient)

Clustered around their teacher

Walking, questioning, discussing

Perhaps letting the warm Mediterranean sun

Warm their faces between questions,

But this stoa lies hard by a traffic lane

At the end of rows of parking spaces

Providing sanctuary from cars,

Not beside olive groves,

And the only other occupant that day,

A nondescript man of no discernible age

Pushed a shopping cart with

A chuck of cheese

A potato

And an onion

In it.

I heard the clatter of the cart’s wheels

On concrete and thought I would have to

Move out of the way

But he turned off, no doubt to drive home

And later walk with his family

Questioning the nature of reality

And together seeking examples of

The beautiful and the good.


Dan Verner

March 7, 2016

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Up in Arms

Scott Kelly

Astronaut Scott Kelly aboard the International Space Station during his 340-day mission with his arms folded, of course.

Astronauts on the space station

Float with their arms folded

During interviews


If they don’t

Their arms float up

And they look like polar bears

Begging for food


Since there are no polar bears

On the space station

Astronauts fold their arms.

I think polar bears

Would love to spend a year

On the space station

Provided, of course,

That NASA keeps them supplied

With fresh seals.

The bears would be glad to get away from

Shrinking ice floes


And Coca Cola ad executives

Bothering them with a drink

They don’t want and can’t use.

Astronauts fold their arms

Not to barricade themselves

From torments real or imagined

Or so they don’t look like

Polar bears

Or even to dance the hora.

No, astronauts

Fold their arms

To embrace the world

Beneath them

To reassure all of us

Here below

And to hold us close

In peace.


Dan Verner

March 6, 2016

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Docked for Winter

Boats in Winter

“I won’t be docked for winter,”

The bookstore manager said,

Meaning she wouldn’t have

Her pay cut because

It was too cold to take a census

In the cemetery.

(I think, It’s not that hard to

Find those people

Although they are really slow about

Returning their forms. This was my thought,

Not hers. Maybe it is hard work.

It might be if it can’t be done in the


I take back “not that hard” and

Substitute “challenging,” which it must be,

Or she wouldn’t have said what she did.)

Anyhow, she’s happy

And I’m happy, too,

Not because I have not

Been docked for winter,

But because I have

Been docked for winter

In the sense that

During blizzard and frigid cold

I stayed at the dock,

A skiff moored at anchor

Away from storm

And all manner of calamity.

Our dockings?

Quite different,

But then

So are we,

And that makes us



Dan Verner

March 4, 2016

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