This is the literary weblog of Jeffrey W. Hull, M.D., a pediatrician. It is intended mainly as a place to maintain a collection of poetry created for the enjoyment of a few friends and as an archive for my family. All material is protected by US copyright.

Jeffrey Hull

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Road Gang

Orange-suited convicts by the highway side
In penance bound to County or to State
See to it that the road is beautified.

They walk in line, but are they going straight?
Who are these men, what stories could they tell
About their blunted lives, what crimes relate?

Child nonsupport, and petty theft as well—
More daring outlaw exploits: bogus checks,
And barroom fights that wake up in a cell;

Their misdemeanor stories quite complex,
The convicts weave Homeric tales sublime:
Assaults on wives, and drunken auto wrecks.

Exciting lives! And will they use this time
To introspect a narrow fractured soul
And flee the dreary world of petty crime?

Let leading lights of social work cajole,
They might forswear their rowdy natures, but
More likely, simply wait upon parole.

And so they slouch along, sans jailhouse strut
And load their sacks with trash at leisure pace;
They see but yet the inner eye is shut.

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The man in the mirror ...

Reflections on, well, reflections.


Achilles would not see old age nor wife,
His sea-nymph mother Thetis had foretold;
The choice was storied glory or long life,
And fame was far more dear than growing old.
Undying life, to be forever free
Of earthly bonds of body, time and space:
To break those ties and live in memory,
A tale three thousand years could not efface.

But mortal I obediently stand
Before this cold-eyed mirror every day
And note how little worked out as I planned,
And idly note my body's slow decay.
But if Achilles lived, he lived not so—
And I've got this to do, and there to go.

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Mt. Bonnell - Austin, Texas circa 1965

Mt. Bonnell is a locally famous low mountain overlook in Austin, Texas, where I went to college lo these many years ago. To one side is the vista of Austin, which lies sparkling in the night in my memory, to the other is Lake Travis and the Texas hill country. Richard Lawrence Cohen, who lives in Austin, inspired me to write this piece. It is a sonnet with a "turn" that comes late and "jerks up short."

Mt. Bonnell

Don't know Montana sky, but it was big
That morning up on Austin's Mt. Bonnell;
A train horn sang, a big six engine rig,
A melancholy four a.m. farewell.
The air was spooky clear, those summer nights;
The heavens hung a cooly violet screen
Contrasting the cascade of city lights
Down boulevard and avenue serene.
And how the Earth was still! or so it seemed
That time slowed down across the sleepy land
So we could snatch a moment as it streamed
Below our unassuming prospect, and
Half-listening to the story you were weaving
I almost missed the news that you were leaving.

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Friday, January 21, 2005

I'm the Boss

There is no doubt about who wears the pants in my family.


My wife and I, we have a deal
And I will put this plainly:
The big decisions fall to me
She chooses small stuff, mainly.

The house, the car, the children's school,
And sundry other trifles
I leave to her—that's her domain—
I choose the hunting rifles.

I choose which table saw to buy,
Ignoring her assessments;
And choosing brokers is my job—
I leave her the investments.

Why, just last spring I was in charge
Of buying the new mower,
She merely refinanced the house
To get the interest lower.

I choose which driving route to take
For family excursion;
Those tales about me getting lost,
Well, that is just her version.

Men: wear the pants, and make the rules—
You’ll find success is rooted
In leaving small things to the wives
For which they're better suited.

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Monday, January 17, 2005

Winter Hawk

Another exercise in the sonnet form, this time Shakespearian.

Winter Hawk

A high-perched hawk's unblinking winter gaze
Patrols with sentry eye the ditch and hedge
Where nervous darting mice traverse their maze,
Doomed soldiers of the Somme by forest edge.
An early thaw has called him north too soon;
Against the sullen light upon his wire
He spends a coldly patient afternoon
As mouse awaits the fate of talons dire.
How many times the hawk has northward flown
Slow gliding gyres of flared dihedral flight
To perch upon the forest bishop's throne
Presiding mass in slant cathedral light.
Around the pivot wheel of live and die
The seasons turn as banks the hawk on high.

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Two Fools

Sometimes we think about things too much in a quest for certainty that is not there. We can become prisoners of our own intellect.

Two Fools

Two fools in disputation stood
Before a crossroads in a wood
As each in turn was heard to say,
"No! No! We go the other way!"

Each man maintained his way was best
For it was shorter than the rest
And named a hundred reasons why
No other road could qualify.

And so the dawn to dusk was spent
In unproductive argument—
Two locked at last, as evening came,
In paralyzing counterclaim.

There came an old man hobbling by;
The fools entreated that he try
Their case and as a judge preside
To help them then and there decide.

The man agreed, but stopped them short
And said, "I know, by your report
That each of you has made a case
With many factors all in place.

"A hundred facts for each, you say,
And neither hundred can outweigh
The other set of valid grounds
That each of you so well propounds.

"Then flip a coin; by random chance
Proceed without a backward glance.
Sometimes it seems to me just so:
The more we think, the less we know."

© 2005 Jeffrey Hull

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Wind Upon the Waters

This little piece is meant to be read aloud with a swing, and a bit of an Irish brogue to give it some flavor. The last lines give a hint of what the poem is actually about.

The Wind upon the Waters

O the wind upon the waters makes
   The waves upon the sea;
The pounding of the ocean shakes
   This heart inside of me.
I stand upon the sandy strand
   And dream of days when we
Would stroll the land there hand in hand
   And dream of what we'd be.
I planned to be a sailor man
   And you'd wait patiently
To spy your man, his features tan,
   Come rollin' home to thee.
Regalin' tales of salty whales
   We'd stroll along the quay;
I'd furl my sails from ocean gales
   And follow you home to tea.
We'd have a lad, I'd be his dad,
   And bounce him on my knee,
And seldom sad for times I had
   When life was wild and free.
O the wind upon the waters makes
   The waves upon the sea;
And the pounding of the ocean breaks
   This heart inside of me.

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Baker

This poem is another response piece to a vignette at Richard Lawrence Cohen's site.

It grew and developed from the original inspiration into its own little story.

The Baker

His fingers knead the lump of dough;
He wasn't born a baker, though
His early dreams were filled with smells
Of yeasty rolls and pastry shells.
He never knew exactly why
These dreams recurred, but by and by
For reasons that he could not tell
They crept in daytime thoughts as well.

Mechanic, cook, and last, a clerk
A dull parade of dead-end work;
A listless life, mind half employed
With youthful hopes almost destroyed.
Another day, another what?
He rolled along in life's deep rut
And down the hill of circumstance
Toward death, and never took a chance.

But then one day he passed a store
With vacant windows, dusty floor,
A local phone on home-made sign—
And knew at once, "This place is mine."
He called the owner, signed the lease
And brought forth mop and elbow grease
And dreaming of his sticky buns
He called the bank and borrowed funds.

He pictured tables, checkered cloth,
And steaming coffee, latte froth;
Outside, beneath the awning shade
Girls spreading buns with marmalade,
The shapely curves of iron chair
And giggling laughs on springtime air
With friendly visits now and then
By sober older businessmen.

"Success" for him may never come
The way it is defined by some;
But when he opens up his store
Each morning, and he sweeps the floor,
And kneads the bread, and bakes the rolls
And punches out the doughnut holes—
He practices an honest art
And greets the day with quiet heart.

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Time's Arrow

Our journey through this world is a succession of choices which we cannot ever retrace. The arrow of time points only one way.

Time's Arrow

Tomorrow trips in petty pace
From time to time and place to place
Down dim and dirty corridors
Through endless halls of armored doors
That creaking open but reveal
More endless halls of doors of steel
And wand'rings through this maze so vast
Forever lock each door we've passed.

So many paths we could have gone!
Enticed by things that led us on
And turned our heads this way and that
'Til like some laboratory rat
Exhausted in our final days
We reach the end of mortals' maze
And find that the expected cheese
Is more like pain and slow disease.

But there’s no point in tears or wrath
At end of life and end of path;
We can't retrace a single pace
So best to meet our fate with grace.
The consequence of choice we bear,
So choose your doors with utmost care
How many men are heard to say:
I did not mean to come this way!

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull


Written the morning our crippled old dog had to be put to sleep. Not a happy day.

Putting Down an Old Dog

My old dog breathes in quiet swell and ebb,
His sleeping furry flank like ocean foam;
He cannot know this sunny morning brings
His sad release from life within our home.

He dreams perhaps of days when he ran free,
The joyous muddy romps on Granddad's farm;
His bounding leaps, his chipper little bark
As wide-eyed cattle scattered in alarm.

But now his halting step betrays his pain,
And resignation dims his rheumy eyes—
And once he settles painfully to rest
Upon the parlor rug, he cannot rise.

The god of time has bargained with us both
And left infirmity in place of youth.
A sorry trade, the only one he makes;
Ah, would that tears could wash away that truth.

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


This piece appeared on Richard's site as well, and was partially quoted by dilys at G as in Good H as in Happy.


The ocean flees from shore, its shells laid bare
   As if Achaean ships had slipped away
By Trojan night, and left its towers there;
   For one dread instant silence rules the bay.

Then grave Poseidon's fearsome voice peals out
   And summons up his watery stampede
In swelling wave, a mighty roaring shout,
   All charging up the beach at breakneck speed.

Then rolling, smashing over those who stand
   Like statues turned by fright to solid stone,
And blotting out those running up the strand
   The violent waves upon the land are thrown.

And wave and wave and wave comes surging on
   To scour clean the land of human trace —
As if the sea threw evil Acheron
   Upon the land, man's presence to erase.

The sea recedes and seeks again its bed,
   Retreating, giving up the land it won;
Its army leaving littered fields of dead
   Sad limbs akimbo, silent in the sun.

The sullen sea its brooding counsel keeps
   Beyond the cries of saddened shorebound men
What awesome powers harbor in its deeps
   As quiet rolls the ocean swell again.

Diviners vainly seek to understand
   Such cataclysmic turns of dreadful fate
Lamenting that they cannot gods command
   To spare the ones for whom they supplicate.

There is no reason good or ill to find
   Why any given soul is swept to woe
Nor why one man is lame or one is blind:
   Such mysteries are not for men to know.

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull


This was an exercise; it is in Italian (or Petrarchan after the Italian poet Petrarch) sonnet form. Sonnets have 14 lines, and typically present two ideas or make an argument and then compare, rebut, or counter argue. The turn of the poem (volta in Italian) classically occurs at line 9. The first 8 lines (the octet) are the statement, the last 6 lines (the sestet) are the answer or contrast. Italian sonnets are the hardest to write in English, because the rhyme scheme for the first 8 lines is abbaabba — or, the author has to come up with a lot of rhymes in a language known for being rhyme poor. Inflected languages such as the romance languages are easier to find rhymes in. Fast - last - past - cast was about all I had available that could logically be worked in. The rhyme scheme of the last 6 lines, the sestet, is variable in Italian sonnets; I chose to stick with cddcee. The sonnet concludes with an epigrammatic couplet, as you observe.

The poem sprang from reflections on the tsunami disaster ... a man in a hurry cut in front of my car, and I thought of tourists hurrying to catch their flights to go on vacation ... from which they did not return.


I'm sure the man who passed me driving fast
Had much upon his mind, and things to do,
And promises to keep like me or you;
Perhaps a family waiting — home at last.
His hurried taillights swerved, and he was past;
Then over hill and into night he flew,
To rest at home and safe for all I knew;
I’ll bet he never thought, how fate is cast.
But what of those Sumatra bound, now gone
Who hurried to their flights and to their doom,
To drown upon a beach, or in a room —
Their haste will never see another dawn.
The Old One weaves our skein before our birth
Why rush to meet our final day on earth?

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull

An Old Story

This poem was composed, as with many of my poems, in response to a posting at Richard Lawrence Cohen's blog.

An Old Story

In love it seems despite our dreams
   Another course is charted:
Despite the warnings writ in reams
   We oft end broken hearted.

The love of fairy tales and such —
   Life ever does elude it;
And what we thought was Cupid's touch —
   Perhaps we misconstrued it.

To dance the dance of true romance
   Is for the moment fleeting:
We can't expect the lovers' trance
   To last, for all entreating.

A gift that Time can never grant:
   That he should cease progressing.
But what he offers to supplant
   Should not be so distressing.

For after passion's flames burn low
   To leave its warming embers
We learn to love the fire's glow
   Through all our cold Decembers.

© 2004 Jeffrey Hull
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