Robert M. Shelby Poet
Photo by Dr. Mervyn Silverman, early 2008. Robert at Open Mic, Valona Deli, Crockett
Robert M. Shelby quote
Photo by Ronna Leon, June 2008 in Atrium
at Benicia City Hall.
Robert M. Shelby reading
Portrait 2007 by Ronna Leon, Benicia Library.
Robert M. Shelby on Memorial Day 2007
Vallejo Times' photo, Memorial Day, 2006, Robert
after reading at Old Army Cemetery.

Six Poems

From "Flying Apples, Falling Parasols," © 2008 Robert M. Shelby.

Politicians Coming Out On Groundhog Day

Now then, say the politicians, even
shadows have momentum. Yet,

this morning’s dove may equally be
the dove of evening, afternoon or noon.

A dove’s wingbeat, one says,
can lash the earth asunder. Or, a cloud

of butterflies wafting its umbral
tarantella over the Atlantic can deflect

the course of hurricanes by fanning heat
into the weather---or by blocking sunlight?

Thus falls the shadow oddly
of a cloverleaf at noonday

on the motionless traffic
of a freeway on holiday.

Shadows fall oddly from the lit portico
where politicians snap shut their umbrellas

in a dark struggle before dawn
to save the world from doves and butterflies.

That Old Devolution

What started me on this letter
got me off
whatever I started on.
one of my
For instance, I’d
want to say I’m getting along fine
with my new organs.
My old
seem to be
rejecting me.
            For instance, my
more original eye
still works okay
but the other one
stares at it suspiciously. . .
And I can forget about memory.

"ENTER PRIZE", Nevada, A State Of Mind

Here comes the railroad, tie by tie.
We need a town before it gets here!
Set up two wagons and a three-way mirror,
they'll see 'emselves arriving, near and nearer,
dusty, thirsty, stubbled and wry. . .
Then, out'11 step "Chere" to dart 'em in the eye!
Land Office?----an empty barrel of beer!
Some of these fellers are starting to buy,
jot 'em on the Council before they're any clearer,
what's applied for a Charter ain't no lie!

(Time Passes. . .)

Remember that friendly engineer?
Most trains toot, "Straight-Through-and-Dry,"
speed across the level and up they fly
right by, brushing us offa one ear.
We fell off without a prayer. . .
I guess it's not bad, being Mayor. . .
We can water our tower'n station, dear.
C'mon, now, don't you cry--you hear?
Let's hoe and bale.  We've got to!  Try?
Our flowers just ain't a plot to die.

Domino Strategy

The funereal army
of the First Emperor
has more than its feet
made of clay.

Though Shi Huang Di
be dust and memory
his soldiery of lasting earth
stands battle fired.
Beware, O excavator,
that a hard
statue not befall you.
We, too, take form as in clay.
May what we are
outlast us.
May what we are not
fall away.

The Wonderful Thing

About fig trees? Every year
they grow new genitals under
their fresh figleaves.

Figs form around internal flowers
made fertile through openings in their
bottom ends.

Is it tasteless to mention the special
nectar in each fig? Pollinators
drawn to it seldom lose thirst
for instinctive access.

Matured at last, each fig
takes earned appreciation for its
full savoir.

My Dad Read A Lot

My dad read a lot in the evenings
and kept pretty busy when he wasn’t.
I doubt he read Asian philosophy, but
he was a smart fellow, ’n I could be wrong.
Old folk wisdoms are similar, east and west. . .

More than once, Dad said, Son, it’s important
sometimes not to keep busy. People need
to spend some time doin’ nothin’.
When you’re doin’ nothin’ you’re really doing
something that’s better’n just not doing anything.

When you’re busy doin’ nothin’, don’t let
things interfere or right away they’ll get you
off away somewhere doing something
that’s too busy for you to get
back to your doin’ nothin’ very soon or easy.

Too many people are way too busy
too much of the time trying not to let anything
get away from ‘em. Then, he’d say, Well, I say
don’t let your nothin’ get away
or your getaway won’t amount to nothin’.

©Robert M. Shelby, site maintained by