Selected Poems

Written by David Sztybel, plus his favorite poem (Tennyson's Ulysses), with an analysis.

Background for this Article

Special Note: I have selected poetical topics that might be imagined to be of general interest to those who take a positive interest in this website.


I. nature

II. morals

I. nature


Mountain high does stir the sky
Master of clouds, and keeper of sun.
Inverse mounts of air-between
over the deep, great valley green
Which separates two hard, uprising
higher vulcan grounds.

This prominence, in bleak air
Makes inane my little stare,
Invites a sweep of distant eyes
to savour fullest majesty.

June 27, 1989

The Sea

Murmuring, murmuring,
the sea, the sea,
To its distant shores
I flee,
For I feel it
beckons me...

My soul and moon
glow energy
Mingling soft upon the waters,
life-giver, prime-mover,
sculptor of land...
The sea asks me always one thing
I cannot or will not
And the dark sea
it calls me back,
And the dark sea
sea calls me back.

June 27, 1989

Forest Green

There is a hum
of green, living energy
in a forest,
Not felt, nor heard
in any bare room of humanity's.

No space can harbour
life better
Than the living air-harbours
for birds
And great shelters
for furring, small beasts.

And the trees majestic,
are they aware?
But even if senses, do they care?
No better caring place is there
for resident denizens
of forest green.

June 27, 1989

An Ecstasy Unto Nature

Closed eyes and mouth open,
Seeing breathlessly-
Glistens lake
Clouds mountain
Trees tower
Rainbow mist
in imaging bubbles invisible,
larger than in periphery of eye
flow ecstasy and revelation
oh unity of wonders.



It gently blows in from outside
And smells of nothing that has died
Envelops me, full to refresh;
It makes me pleased to be in flesh.

July 2, 1989

The Furrier

The furrier grins, sees new pelt:
A better fur he's never felt,
Or so he thinks; he's wrong, you know:
Better furs on living backs grow.

Billions of lives, most called 'trash,'
Lost-and why? Vanity...cash.
This is the sordid trapper's trade,
They find blood-struggle, club with spade.

Animals steeled in fang-hold traps,
They gnaw their legs, until they snap?
Some would do, yes, and then they'd flee,
Only to die, starved, bled, and free

Of untold pain, those many days,
Some cousin suffers, steel-trapped stays,
Awaiting some old callous lout
Cruelly sends these souls en route.

Then there is the furrier's farm,
See little pens kept in a barn:
Where mink, and fox, and stoat fast pace,
If in wild, for miles, miles would race.

Electrocuted, strangled slow,
They're dealt no less vicious a blow.
People whose morals are a dud,
Want needless furs, all caked in blood.

Better, furrier, that world where
The hairy beasts enjoy life fair,
Never trapped nor hunted-free!-
They'd see that life they'd wish to see.

June 26, 1989

The Mighty Hunter

O mighty sportsman
with history rich:
Of stadium warriors
facing off,
Or valiant runners
taking off,
Or fencing fairly,
sharp points off.

The big-gunned hunter
is mightiest of all?...
with his tools,
his weapons of death.

First he tries to find 'his game,'
Not asking if he/she wishes to play,
Then the prey is struck,
but only at his/her most helpless,
for therein lies the skill:
a shot from hiding--
Anything goes
for a good day's kill.

But does the other
want to play?
By running scared,
what does this say?
What statement makes
the angered eyes?

A bloody bad sport?
A sore loser?
No, but the victim has lost sore
In a game he/she never made
nor never would.

But humanity did make it:
not as a game, before
but a chore
when they thought
they needed meat--
do we?

But still some hunt
for pleasure

What does it mean,
to kill and give pain
for one's own pleasure?
But we have just cruelty defined...
Oh mighty huntsmen,
Be mighty enough to now relent.

June 26, 1989

Sworn Omnivore?

The farm animals
are born on the farm,
But once released into their life,
it becomes their own,
not ours.
They blink, aware,
want not--
they care.
--do we?

Rudely we lead
them all to slaughter,
Call them 'brutes,'
and say God wants it.

But do they,
do they want it?
And were we transformed,
given speechless bodies,
Would we, then,
would we then want it?

It is well said, as they say:
life is not fair...
But what life form
less fair than we
to all the living?

June 26, 1989

The Extremist

How you call me,
a vegan,

Somehow it seems
more extreme
For one sentient
to kill
or have killed
another sentient--
Just because
the taste of its
rotting corpse
gives you some pleasure,
Whilst I, a sentient,
given our choice,
rest content
eating some matter
of plants.

August 12, 1989

The Lab

The lab coats are white.
Clean-feeling conscience
of conscientious worker...
But fully conscious?

Sterile, cold steel applied
to creatures,
Cutting, probing...
What is your scream?
yelp of dog?
howl of cat?
shriek of monkey?
squeal of rat...? Some conscience is given
pause by
Shakespeare's Shylock,
"If you prick us, do we not bleed?"
Yet usually, consciousness
stops dead,
on the threshold of
the nonhuman world,
which we've rated
on our evolutionary charts.
But the spirit of Shylock dances unto death,
in the shy, scared eyes of
the animals
"Why us?" they seeming wonder,
and with good reason.
"Why not?" say the callous technicians
But no!...
"Why?" say the fully conscious,
on these other animals' behalf,
"Why do they not matter in reality,
When, in reality, they matter to themselves?

And onwards chops the butchery,
sears the pain,
shocks the monkey,
kills the rest...

June 26, 1989

An Old Pigeon in the Park

Her feathers ruffled, lustre gone
From her old neck, but she walks on--
More slowly than her other mates,
She rests on pathway, vigour gone.

Bicycles here do her just miss.
(Saved her from one baby's carriage.)
She sits there, blinking-pain or bliss?
Still to death she's made a marriage.

June 28, 1989

The Subtle and the Sublime

A gale of wind blasts, heaving across the surface
of the ocean
Sea waves swirling into hill and valley,
casting giant crests
against the storm-tormented skies
From atop a leaf, a raindrop plummets,
piercing the stillness of a pool,
Smooth ripples undulating, radiating outward
in gently rolling circles of light and dark,
the mirror of the water plane gently bending
with rhythmic flow

Thunder cracks, the echoing from Vulcan's anvil,
challenged by his hammer of sternest temper
A flighty breeze reticently whispers a path of air
to the freefloating seed of a dandelion.

A vine snakes and twines about an ancient bough,
constricting by weatherworn cables of callouses green
A spider's web of thinnest silk binds together some
blades of grass with threads of glimmering sunfire.

The sweat of reptiles issues forth astench
from a viper's pit
A colony of orchids entrances a pair of nostrils
with their perfume of full bloom.

One person moves with the sounds of nature,
And another one broods upon its silences.



Who be more worshipful than thee?
Ever stretching towards the sun
Even in the twilight gloom?

Who be more bountiful and generous than thee?
Thou giveth forth fruit, paper, wood, shelter, air,

and soil? Who be more reverent than thee?
Providing shelter, sustenance, and support
for all branches of life,
Faithful to your place of birth, and binder,
keeper of its earth?

Who be more dignified than thee?
Remaining still with nearby friends, growing old
together always?

Who be more contemplative than thee?
A whole lifetime tuned into one niche
Appreciating all of its life energies
With a love so attached, it would not
Leave this place until death?

Who be more staunch than thee?
Mighty sinews flexed, fixed, even in growth
Roots embedded long, deep and firm
With posture supple, yet returning upright,
Not made fickle by the wind?

Who be mightier than thee?
Seeming to tower to sky itself
With thickness nearly incomparable
And size that reaches beyond all other life?

Who be more peaceful than thee?
Partaking only of the air, sun, soil, and rain,
Only to commit thyself to soil once again?

Who be more oppressed than thee?
By puny men scurrying towards thy centuries-long home,
Only to uproot thee, or disembowel thee with teeth,
Yet not their own?


In Dust: Trees

The Chemlawn truck grinds its way down the downgrade of
the deserted road
Its white hood, grinning grill, and
its eerily illumining headlamps
Projecting their dreary way
Where the sun has fled,
but where the road has not,
as it winds, a dusky river,
on into the mill.

The mill lumbers on with its
cyclical machines,
Slick with blackest oil, with which to aid ease
As the steely circular blade rolls
to its end
Only to be pushed ever back again
With many a log to sunder in twain
Noxious fumes adrift conspire
to overthrow the air entire

Once-living tissue is torn, is flayed,
mutilated by unnaturally hungry, fiercely sharp teeth
Its only pause is when the flow of logs is dammed
as it often is
So much more so than the wasted
River of sticks
Left to land wherever sticks may
In a barren landscape
On shores of colourless clay.

But never lack of fodder, ancient trees
for the infernal maw
In its feeding of nether powers unseen,
As afar the blade it buzzes keen
And there spews out blackest smoke
Amidst licking flames unending

And for those who dwell within this place
There is no sky
No trees above --at best a ground to land a chair on--
So why look up?



The winding stream wends on its way,
It gurgles, spits, and seems to say:
"You there, please! Do not let me drown
My pure waters in mixed wastes brown!"

I meander, on my way,
Come to the shore of that said stream,
Although, it's true, I see it gleam,
Foam-bubbles burst-metallic spray.

That stream meanders past a site
Where slime pours in, no end in sight,
The damning toxins wind on down,
Until a lake: on shore, a town.

The town draws water from the lake;
No better way their thirst to slake?
They went ahead and drank a cup--
Now guess whose cancer rates are up?

June 26, 1989

doom, softly falling

the tricklings of fishes
have died here
and so are faded the sparklings
of this water's stream

these branches do not bend
as supply in the breeze
and these still green leaves
are hardly so green

and, on valley's edge,
blowing past a pile of bricks--
the wind, raspingly...


Our Sunlight

The sun
shines harshly
through polluted skies,
Yet the harshness
is not in the way
of the world,
So much as in
the way of pollution--
and of humans
who pollute.

January 26, 1992

The Legacy

In distant future, what's found here?
A wasteland which inspires grim fear?
Soil erosion-paydirt hit
Hit so hard great cracks there're writ.

Then there's radioactive waste,
Placed deep in caverns planned in haste.
What of the movement of earth's crust--
Groundwater streams with glowing dust?

What will they think of us gone by?
They'll think, "how foolish," wonder why
We'd leave our soil, which does us bless
In such a barren, sordid mess.

Spaceships voyage, with science great
How far we've come-oh, awesome fate!
We travel to far-distant rock,
While agri-technics this Earth shock.

June 29, 1989

The Throw-Away Societies

In throw-away societies,
Among the grave impieties
Are good, long-lasting products, mind
That aren't of that poor stream-lined kind.

In line with stream of steady waste--
Through-way people, consumed with haste.
Bad workmanship's for what you pay;
Replace more than repair today.

Unused usefuls buried in dumps:
Some future persons get their lumps;
And present prophets, moaning, say,
"Societies be thrown away?"

July 18, 1989,

II. morals

Red Wisps of Cloud


eyes dulled, the square-jawed man droned on,
less than a lifetime ago:
...Special Treatment...



your mind's eye opens wide--
you now see, hear, smell,
almost touch what is closely in front of you

...A Pyramid of Corpses Twisting towards an Air Hole in a Mobile Gas Chamber...
...Hissing Gold Teeth in Buckets of Acid...
...Open-Pit Shootings, the Doomed Lying on Torn, Bleeding Dead in the Grave Dug by
their Once-Living Bodies, All Ages, Both Sexes, Naked...
...A Man Measures his Time Remaining by his Pains in the Deathly Stench...
...Young Girls Raped in Gray-Walled Barracks...
...Sweating Labour in an Artillery Plant until Death by Exhaustion or Hunger or Thirst
or Disease...
...A Man Screams as his Healthy Limbs Are Amputated by a Curiously Smiling Medical Doctor...
...An Infant Suffocates, Crushed by the Crowds in an Hours-Long Cattle-Car Ride...
...A Man Lunges at a Barbed-Wire Fence in Desperation, Dies of Electric Shock...
...A Sodomite Captain Has a Young Boy Seized after Roll Call...
...Mattresses are Stuffed with the Hairs of the Slaughtered Women...
...A Local Businessman Yells Out to a Passing Man, Dressed in Black, Skull and
Cross- bones Cap, Pointing Out that Some of Them are Hiding Next Door...
...A Son Shovels his Mother's Mortal Remains into a Smoking Charred Oven Littered
with Bones...
...A Young Girl Hoses Down the Gas-Befouled Corpses in a Pile and Begins to
Separate their Skins...
...An Old Lawyer Hangs, Swaying in the Sunset Seeping Through the Camp
...A Small Orphan is Given Thirty Lashes with a Cat O' Nine Tails...
...One Man Waves his Hand Aside and Determines Who Dies and Who Slaves...
...A Mob of Villagers Harangues, Hacks, Hangs, Smashes So Many Human Beings...
...A Mobile Killing Unit Picks Off a Young Man in a Cap Running with a Yellow Star
on his Back...
...A Home Stormed and Decades-Established Family Shipped Off from Hostile Township
along with So Many Others...
...A Young Poet and Artist Fashions an Illustrated Epic Poem, and Chooses to Die
Finishing it in Honour of the Camp's Commander-in-Chief...
...An Officer Enjoys Reading of Nietzsche's Master Morality, for Supermen, by the
of a Lamp whose Shade is Taut with Human Skin...
...A Newcomer Breaks Line, Charges Guard Who Kicks Him, Cursing Long Past the
Victim's Demise...
...A Child Smuggling Bread into a Ghetto through a hole in a Fence is Riddled by
Gun Fire from a Grinning Sentry...
...An Old Accountant Struggles, Collapses in a Fresh-Dug Ditch, Left There to Die
Without his Clothes...
...A Person is Forced to Empty a Latrine Tank with her Hands and Then She is Shot
Through the Throat because She Proved Too Difficult...
...A Sadist Spends a Sunday Evening with Five Helpless, Agonized and Slowly Dying
Men and Women...
...A Pair of Gaunt Strangers in Dirty, Stark-Striped Pajamas Silently Sorts Out
of People-Scented Clothing...
...A Guard Grasps a Pick-Axe in a Quarry and Impales the Back of an Old Man, and
Congratulated by his Chortling Mate...
...A Cabin of Political Prisoners Unwittingly Tests a New Kind of Rat Poison in
their Bowls...
...A Skeletal Young Woman Breathes One Last Breath, Immobile on the Plank which
Served as her Bed...
...A Group of Student-Age Youths are Forced to Dig a Massive Grave for Massive
Numbers of Corpses, to Cover Evidence of Others' Deeds...
...The black-etched numbers on the forearms, living or killed, are always less
than the
total count of those killed in the name of God or Hitler...
...Columns of Camp Labourers March Past Fields of Colourful Wild Flowers toward
Smoking, Fiery Death Camp, with Glowing Red Wisps of Cloud Above It, Where
Slavering Guard Dogs Howl and Bark, and Humans are Stoked into Roaring Flames
by Others with Pitchforks...

years later, someone tries to imagine the faces of six million slaughtered, and...


a Jew prays over a candle
one of his tears sizzling
in flame to vapour into ether
singing how there is yet hope

March 23, 1987

The Magic of a Waterfall

Behold the magic waterfall
Enchanting full your eyes
Its colour splashes rolling shapes
Just as you realize:
If a scientist happened by
To catalogue all here
In breaking down each tiny bit
He would miss something dear:
Write past the laughing of a dog,
The trilling of a bird,
The licking, lapping waters free
All never to be heard.

"Pollysyllabic sacrilege!"
You'd think, "bore at his best,"
As his report drones on and on,
And leaves you unimpressed:
"These cells have mitochondria,
(But this is nothing new);
The waters that were surveyed there
Were hardly really blue;
The fauna that inhabits here
Are simple, commonplace:
The leaves, the bugs, the animals
Like others of their race."

Yet past his techno-spectacles,
Spellbound light did flick:
Pupils that watched still as a child
The flame, and not the wick.

July 4, 1987


There live those who see by light though blind:
Their worldly vision warped by mind;
What only they seek, maybe they find--
Not sought, the pores of an orange rind.

Blind eyes not lost in a lightless dark
No: full well beams flow through these sockets;
These blind see as that tinkerer works
Who tries to build with hands in pockets.

What is to one a room of wonders
Is to another a flat, framed board--
Dreamers watch dance invisible;
Blind ones, blundering biases hoard.

And yes, these blind will project themselves
Onto their environs, outwards blow
Impose as volcanoes, all around,
Surrounding surroundings...lava flow.

Yet what waves could be in ocean of mind!
Open to all, like wiser babies;
Visionaries also see these blind--
The swan bewares the fox with rabies.

March 21, 1987


I weary of mad Nietzsche's bile,
Utilitarian's cool smile,
Kant's duty for just duty's sake,
And Natural Law's Christian stake,
Existentialist nihilism
And Schopenhauer's pessimism
Philosophers love abstractions--
While Earth is stormed by evil actions.

August 21, 1989

The Moralizationalists

Relativist! Any thing goes?
So stay still, let me chop your toes!
Utilit-air, please calculate
The greatest good...no endless wait!

Determinist, you would absolve
All folks' responsibilities?
Then with acid your toes dissolve,
You won't blame me, all damning flees!

Kant says "rational existence
Is good in itself"--arguments?
But now I now beg to differ;
Take Kant's own reasons--why prefer?

What of prima facie duties?
Intuition gives me hooties,
What, Ross? Opinions should decide,
So who needs theory? Why so snide?

And then there is the hedonist,
Does being nice make him some pissed?
Well, better then look out, my friend,
For pleasure is his sole chief end!

Let's not forget Natural Law,
Before the Pope we'd stoop in awe,
And worship, too, some mindless things;
Thus Thomist choirs, their echoings.

Back to Plato, Aristotle?
Plato's Forms, his student's bottle's
Humanist bile why we'd drink?
Better, nonspeciesists, to think!

Turn your eyes now to Orient,
"Be natural," Taoists assent--
But what means "nature"? Tell ere long--
Why now so pale? Is something wrong?

Then should we be emotivists,
Or passionate psychologists?
But then again, are these the same?
No laws, just feelings--kind of lame.

Dread now tauto-logical norms
O, verbalist's wrath, thunders, storms!
If to his words I do bring shame;
Mayhap instead play scrabble game.

Should camp out with the egoists?
Act for the self, others be screwed?
What now, why not be sentientists?
"For all sentients' sakes"--never rued.

June 28, 1989

Abruptus Interruptus

Abruptus Interruptus is
Now among us--necessary,
Though 'tis; once endless things' biz's
Done: Is there time for you and me?

June 28, 1989


Infused into shape of a leaf,
In women's bodies, moving there,
More lovely than all clothes they wear--
Round beauty's isle's sharp coral reef

Past which no ships of wretches pass
This natural and subtle mass
Keeps small things safe, itself is great--
Siren's beauty attracts her mate.

It's there in sunset, purple, red
And even haunts the yard of dead,
More matches length of that fine spire,
It's found in gleam: sun-golden wire.

True, beauty's for all our sakes
With pleasure senses it awakes,
By all that's pleasing to the eye
Uniquely, yet one theme I spy:

Always in things, if form is well,
Intense aspects--might be a smell--
Coheres with what's for sense-beings,
This makes a sight worth its seeing.

July 2, 1989