Benedetto Croce apparently once said that “until age eighteen, everyone writes poetry. After that, there are only two categories of people who continue to write them: Poets and fools.” I’m definitely not a poet, so the following must stand as evidence of my foolishness. And yet, I am publishing it here anyway because… well, I’m a fool.


In the Subway

In the subway I was sitting
And my rebel hand was pitting
All its fingers’ furious fidgeting
Against my lips and jaw;
While beneath my eyebrows knitting,
My two inmate eyes were flitting
‘Cross the pages that my other hand
Was clenching like a claw.

A free weekly I was reading,
All the while my envy feeding
With accounts of fuller lives than mine
Lived out on culture’s fore.
Each new page set fresh sweat beading
On my brow –the ego’s bleeding–
Till at last I did prevail upon
Myself to read no more.

I looked up as in a daze at
My surroundings, quite amazed at
All the faces spread before me
In the flesh and on the wall.
Ads were those, but in the haze that
swathed me, it seemed as I gazed at
Man or photo, all were scrambled,
And a single crowd were all.

Plugged-in ears and buried noses,
Lovely mouths in loathsome poses;
How I hate you, bank-loan couple!
Oh, to blow your home apart!
Ah, but you! Most blessed, God knows, is,
Princess of the tattooed roses,
He so shallow as to love you
From the bottom of his heart!

You, sweet siren by the ocean!
You can keep your “firming lotion”;
Something, though, about the structure
Of your bones I can’t ignore.
Are we soul mates? What a notion!
Why, oh, why is my devotion
Given but to empty features
Into which my dreams can pour?

And why am I so idiotic,
Stupid, shy, and so neurotic?
I can’t even go two seconds
Anymore without some doubt
Rising up in waves spasmodic,
Crashing down, a kind of thought-tic,
Whispering at me, “life’s just something
That you’ll never figure out.”

I can’t take it any longer!
Every day it’s getting stronger,
This sensation that I’m skirting
On the surface of a dream,
Which by right (but none was wronger!)
Should be mine, but seems no longer
T’have an entrance, and… –then, all of this
Welled up into a scream.

I screamed –aloud!– and all around me,
All the subway-goers’ eyes now found me
Loose-faced, pallid, head pressed back
Deliriously against the pane
Of an ad for Sunshine-Bound Sea
Cruises, whose teal waves now drowned me
In my seat, and all –as I did–
Wondered if I’d gone insane.

Yet I yelled on, and in elation
Now, for I’d felt liberation
Break upon me like the grace
Of some anarchic god;
All this knotted hesitation,
All the limits of creation
Fell away, and with them all the
Fatal faults with which I’m flawed.

From my cry an echoed rumble
Came now, as began to crumble
The dank jail of my existence,
Of which soon I’d break all bonds,
Then, when all the pillars tumble,
I’d the laws of living jumble
‘Round till I –and all– are happy
And at peace, ‘neath Eden’s fronds…

But suddenly the train doors parted
At my stop, and thus upstarted
I fell silent, reddening,
And scuttled out, and climbed the stair,
Back now where my day had started,
Sane again, too, I departed
Through revolving doors that spat me
Out into the winter air


Stepping Out for A Walk in Verdun on A Sunny Day

Church bells from the high clouds swinging sunlight
Through the branches swaying stair rails
Gleaming star-crossed parents passing
Red and gold brick streaming
Past the corners of my eyes.
Facades crumbling cement beavers
Flying through the phone lines swooping
Foliage flinging fire beams on the
Signposts cross-street depanneur fruit
Sun-blanched beer ads rusty latches
Lingerie stores pigeons flapping
Personal mobility carts roll by
Exhaust green grass cigarette butts
Between the asphalt patches.
And now I’m by the river rushes
Near the ducks and park above me
Plastic playground seagulls
Circling strollers strolling
Children who will say:
“Verdun you know was very different
In my day.”


On Turning Thirty

I was given my twenties to dream of being happy,
And happily, it seems now, I dreamed that youth away.
When the mind’s all full of theories and the heart, all told, is sappy,
There’s no gentler fire than dreaming to devour another day.


Oh dinosaurs, where are they now the days

Oh dinosaurs, where are they now the days
When we lingered together on the terrace of the morning?
I was too young then, alas, to hear your warning
That all on this Earth that draws breath is lost in the past’s haze.

As little real to me as gnomes or faeries,
You stared out, beady-eyed, from the pages of child’s books;
Yet consciousness, however dim, was in those looks
You turned at moonlights, and the long clouds evening carries.

Amidst a world indifferent and rapacious,
You countless hatched, and fought, and suffered all those ages,
So that a child, one day, could flip, in a few pages,
Through your Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous.

But yet, even the simplest of children’s books contains
Such truth about you you could never understand;
In sixty million years, perhaps, some other creature’s hand
Will thumb the primer that our own strange lives explains.


9 Responses to Poetry

  1. Daniel says:

    Seriously, Julian, your poetry is very good! I rarely find new poems that connect with me on some level and yours seem to me quite profound. I very much enjoyed In the Subway, it reminded me of Poe truth be told, that meter isn’t easy to get down either! Keep up the good work, I hope to read more in the future and I’ll be checking back.

    The art is also superb! Prufrock brought me here.


  2. Miss Chili says:

    Like isabelle above, I’ve only read the first poem for now, though not aloud, for fear of my falling into a chasm from which escape would be impossible. See, this is what things like this do to me!!! Eeeeek!!! At any rate, I’ll save the others for reading on a less cloudy, rainy day than this…


  3. isabelle says:

    I only read the first one for now, one at a time, slowly : I read it in silence first, then out loud no choice. I got caught in the cadence of your wagon, saw only too clearly a most familiar scene, felt only too strongly an equally familiar sensation of estrangement. Thank you montreal subway for waking up the julian peters in us.
    What exactly is the difference between a poet and a fool again ?


    • I’m flattered that you felt prompted to read the poem aloud, and comforted in the fact that someone else found they could relate to it. Pacing about a subway platform waiting for the train is second only to trying to get to sleep among those everyday moments that leave one the most vulnerable to existential angst attacks.


  4. Pingback: The Idle Scribblings of a Piddling Poetaster | julian peters comics

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