The Imagisterium

What Time April

A poem in celebration of Whan That Aprille Day ( Elizabethan English is the oldest tongue I can attempt with confidence.


What time April, with its pollen thick,
Doth make hale people wan and sick,
And batheth ev'ry nose in such ichor
As the wind flingeth from ev'ry flower,
When teeth do throb, and wretched eyeballs bake,
Ears clog, throats itch, and ev'ry part doth ache,
When small birds sing, while people snort and hack,
Oh, then folk long to beck fell winter back,
Whose blast they well could meet with windows tight,
And take a nip to numb the season's bite.

-- Carl Bettis


A haigram is…

...what I call a 5-7-5 syllabic poem that's more epigram than haiku.

A black ice morning:
I drive my daughter to school
at six miles per hour.


Poem: What I Do


Planted well back from the water,
I sling weighted hooks
into the lake mud,
hoping to drag
into the air
a fighting bottom feeder.
I never learned to swim.
-- Carl Bettis

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He Who

walking stick

He Who

Is his life better, the anti-me who
says all that I smother? He's lost
more jobs, more friends, more lovers:
he's had more to lose. I have
what he will not: I stay.
One career, one home, one tribe.
He ends up always hated
for his nakedness; those
who surround me love,
deeply, my camouflage.

-- Carl Bettis

(Image by Carl Bettis)

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Poem: (The) Overthinker’s [Lament]

The Overthinker's Love Song Lost Love Lament

([Once only] [That ([night] [other life]) when])
([the land] [we]) sank
([out of ([sight] [the sun])] [under the stars])
and ([our clothes] [your dress]) ([([fell] [dropped] [sank]) to] [landed on]) [¿ the floor ?], and
-- I miss the taste of you.

-- Carl Bettis


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Poem: Surely Not


Somewhere, someone who long ago
knew me is now
not looking for me.

--Carl Bettis

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Poem: Dynastic Decline

Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, MO

A stream of consciousness poem. Possibly one my therapist would find informative.

Dynastic Decline

the doorman of the forest fire
has come down in the world he once
composed sounds for power
tools and industrial machines
as his grandfather had for
steam engines and extinct birds

his brother is a hospital gnome
with a habit of hiding
in habits of addicts or nuns
he's cute and only
by moonlight looks sinister
he could easily find garden
work but will forgive
no plot that is not Eden

they've never seen their mother
who sells to tourists
mud from the graves
of killers and ivy
from their headstones
in a little shop
made of flannel
deep in the forest
filling with smoke

-- Carl Bettis

(Image: Glore Psychiatric Museum, St. Joseph, MO; photo by Carl Bettis)

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Poem: Who Are Your Influences?


Who Are Your Influences?

I was adopted by Edgar Allan Poe.
This is not a childhood you'd want,
but the cognac kept me warm, if dizzy.

When I ran away, Emily Dickinson
took me in and wore me out.
In damp weather, my pen still aches.

-- Carl Bettis

Image: from The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed (public domain); slightly altered.


Poem: Night Song


By day I see
only what light can show.
Darkness offers
strange worlds to me
above, below.
Night, soft
and dangerous, stalks
the day and brings him down.
She opens my ears and skin;
boundaries disappear.
I dissolve into shadows
with ash tree and lilac:
crickets and frogs
buzz within.
My thoughts run out
in black rills
across the grass.
Night takes from me
the burden of me,
and I don't know
but that I'll awaken as you.

-- Carl Bettis

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Poem: Pupal



I build
a featureless
shell within
which I hide
the face that
so wearies, and
dream into me.
After long
sleep craft
I emerge to
meet this

-- Carl Bettis
Image based on a public domain photograph by Kerina yin at wikimedia commons (, manipulated by Carl Bettis