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Tony Lee  

poet, historian, editor, publisher,   


Now that we are here
with the nectarines on the table--
one too ripe, with its brown spot
exposed to the world,
lewdly flaunting its sweetness

And with the roses
in the garage-sale vase--
white rose sticking up too high
from among the rest

With the cold cup of tea
that no one wanted--
that lost its chance to be
consumed, and sacrificed

Now that we are here
in a circle, listening
hoping to be heard,
longing for a cookie
white with sugar.

Now that we are here:
What shall we say?

Shall we tell our deepest secrets,
expose our pain
turned up in a blue bowl?

Shall we pretend that all is well
and sit quietly like the rest?

Or pull ourselves proudly up,
too tall among the cramped flowers?

Or shall we just go home,
leave cold and rejected,
unsweetened and unloved--
but remembering the heat of that
One moment
when the kettle boiled and the Spirit lept up,
in bubbles
and steam?

Arts Dialogue, September 1997, page 9


For two thousand years we waited for the Messiah,
and the Messiah came.
He was arrested for disturbing the peace.
I watched.

We waited two thousand years for Christ's return,
and he came back.
But we found out he was homeless,
and we ran him out of town.
I cried.
We waited two thousand years for the avatar,
and Lord Krishna appeared.
But we thought he was a panhandler,
and we gave him money.
I gave three dollars.

We waited two thousand years for another Buddha,
and another was born.
But he didn't speak the language,
and we ignored him.
I apologized.
We waited two thousand years for the Day of Judgment,
and the Day arrived.
But we were watching television,
and we missed it.
I took notes.

We waited two thousand years for a new Qur'an,
and a new one was written.
But we thought it was a math book,
and we didn't read it.
I shook my head.
We waited two thousand years for the kingdom of God,
and the kingdom is here.
But Dostoevsky was right.
The inquisitor smiles.
I waited too long

Arts Dialogue, September 1997, page 9

Poetry and Prose
...Questions of whether the thoughts are crystalized, or whether the poem conforms to a certain form are thought of as irrelevant. Well, maybe not completely, because there is a very strong bias towards ordinary language. That is, that the language of contemporary poetry is the language of ordinary speec -unless you deliberately depart from that for some intended effect.
So the challenge here in poetry is to aim for an intense emotional communication through normal words and speech patterns. The publications of the group (Spillway, ONTHEBUS, etc.) have a lot of confessional poetry and even some prose. No one makes much of a distinction between poetry and prose. Good writing is just good writing. Judged by its spiritual impact, I suppose.

Excerpt from a Letter, Arts Dialogue, February, 2000, pages 2 and 3

To a review of his work and more poems on this site

Century's End

It was not supposed to happen.
This was the century of light,
the twentieth century, that
somehow couldn't keep its promise.
I remember David one night
in the late-60s promising
a seeker in his softest voice
that soon she would be living in

a world at peace. She believed him
and I did too-closed my eyes dreamed
that Spring was near, with truth, justice,
and all the rest. I dared to think
that it may have all been worth it
-genocide, the wars, the starving,
the killing, torture, and terror,
and worse-if it could bring peace. But

what should have come is still coming,
and we who wait are still waiting,
and we who hope are still hoping.
Yet without too much hope, as bombs

fall, men fight. They bleed and they die
in the usual way. It's hard
to believe in anything else.

Arts Dialogue, February 2001, page 18.

Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands