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Older Poems and Songs by Dr David

 

 

Free Verse 1
Free Verse 2
Free Verse 3
Free Verse 4
Free Verse 5
Free Verse 6
Free Verse 7
Metered Poems
Family Poems
Songs

 

Free Verse 1

 

biology

women have a secret laugh
for all the men they fool
feigning inability
willingly or under duress,
aggrandizing the male ego
"you're so big and strong and smart"
taking a back seat
making way for masculine aggressiveness

this behavior
the subordination of the female
has for better or worse
preserved our species
to this point
a hormonally-driven, biological imperative

the laugh
a bit of evolution
the animal becoming conscious of itself
the thinking brain
able to look at its instincts
embarrassed and superior

men also have a secret laugh
although being the less introspective sex
they often don't get the joke
and are usually duped
along with the women they fool
subject to their own hormones
programmed for the preservation of the species
they cannot help but find
an attractive female
fascinating
and will gladly suffer hours,
nay days, of mediocre
even boring company
because somewhere down deep
buried perhaps
beneath social inhibition and taboo
there beats the primal, wordless hope
that they will be present
when she spreads her legs

how wonderful is the grand design
weak men
made to feel strong
uninteresting women
convinced of their specialness
the species assured its progeny.
laughing
biology makes fools of us all





Ulysses

even when he had come home
and
with bloody vengeance
reclaimed what was his
from those who would usurp it
even when he
had embraced his son
and with relief
wept upon
faithful Penelope's lap
even then
the odyssey was not over
the sea would not let him be
waves crashing in his head
ground pitching
like a deck
beneath his feet
until he took an oar
and walked inland
to a place
where men knew not
what such a thing was for
and left it there
standing
planted in the earth
only then
was he free
of his wanderings






Late August

August expires tonight
its cool, final breezes
already autumnal
the dying breaths of some gigantic beast
who sleeps
exhausted beneath the harvest
and dreams of being naked and light.

Summer aches
her overladen womb
weary of its labors
craves the withering frost
ripeness left too long
grows rank and fat upon the bough
which cannot bear
but breaks.

The world slips
sighing tired and heavy
headlong this evening
into the quiet absence of space
darkness suddenly usurps the day
seasons falter
earth's massive axis tips.

The heart bleeds
irrevocably
spilling its impossible lushness
out into night's cool, black sea
life ends
the swell of passion's throbbing pulse
grows still
and soon recedes.



burning wings

the MIR space station is losing orbit
falling
like the Soviet empire that made it
it will one day break into pieces
hitting earth's atmosphere
raining down its fractured parts upon the planet
somewhere
we are assured
over the Pacific Ocean
but if
as has been recently been the case
its Russian masters lose radio contact
at the wrong time
then its anyone's guess who gets hit
London, Moscow, Montreal
it could make quite a mess

this high-flying ambition is old and in need of repair
and its Asiatic coffers are empty
the prowess and the glory out of fuel
still subject to the gravities of previous millennia
what goes up must yet come down

we are guilty of spitting in the wind
of shitting in the nest
of pride which would reach into the heavens
our praise and our undoing

look up and you may notice
something wonderful and weird
as the boatman once did spy
Icharus falling from the sky


Absence

The soul cannot survive
The air too thin to breathe
Cannot be formed
Into the kindness of a word.

Bodies drift past each other
Substanceless
Without the density to touch
Or be touched.

Night implodes
Shadows collapsing into a black hole
Darkness infinitely turning in upon darkness.

Oceans congeal
Mountains turn to dust
Nothing remains.


thursday night

I was over at the university's computer room
because theirs do what mine doesn't
or do it faster
having gone there in the late afternoon
then gone to synagogue for afternoon prayers
then back to finish what I was in the middle of
website design being new to me
the code a puzzle gradually yielding
6 became 7
then it becomes clear that I'm not going to make it home for dinner
before Rabbi Gopin's kabbalah class at 8
but the page is almost doing what I want it to do
and the verge of success feels too good to let go
and when I delete the last line of code that's jumbling the page
(in Navigator, but not in Explorer)
it's straight
and five after eight
and I'm out of there
and five minutes later
sitting at the table
upstairs in the synagogue with
Pinchas and Levi and the rabbi
just in time to catch a summary of the first paragraph
of the chassidic discourse
"Come into my garden, my sister, my bride"
from the line in the Song of Solomon
and I'm not really hungry
but still a little altered from my short fast
and the discourse is flowing
Rabbi Gopin translating more methodically than he usually does
and what I get out of it
is that there is a hierarchy
in the way in which G-d sustains the world,
"strength" is the most distant
being something a person has or doesn't
"life-force" is closer
something constantly transmitted
through which G-d every instant sustains creation
"light"
closer yet
a more rarefied transmission
more spiritual, more G-dly
compared to "life-force"
like wisdom is to the physical body
and "Name"
an essential part of G-d
the external part of the Crown
the way He is for Himself
but making ready for creation
internal, concealed
the way the essence of a person
is touched when you call his name

and sitting there
I am transformed
realizing another hierarchy
(or the same)
as I look at my companions
and follow the words of the talk,
that is,
that the I who am looking and listening
is not the physical body
so demanding of attention
nor is it my emotions
waxing and waning like the moon
nor even these thoughts and understandings,
the observer is the soul
a part of G-d
clearer now
that the body had been a little denied
and the spirit fed
the soul evoked
called forth
by a language it understands
and which understands it
the essence shining forth
delivering "life-force" and "strength"
morning fog disappearing
before the rising sun

questions of personal identity
are so tricky
as the zen master said
if you do not understand
ask yourself
who doesn't understand?




love's course

at first
it was visible from afar
like a star
falling from the sky
an impossible friction
consuming itself
and all in its path
rock and air
bursting into flame
a blinding heat
beheld only for the moment

then it shone like the moon
swelling and ebbing
inconstant in the sky
a different face
a different time
leisurely drifting through the night
imperfectly illuminating the earth

now it shines
like oil
rendered into light
along the edge of a wick
amber light pouring through the air
flooding the room
a soft flicker
animating the shadows

now it glows
like fire dancing over logs
yellow-orange tongues
leaping up
over red embers
warming flesh
and blood within



love's meteorology

I would be for you
a cloud coming before the sun
on a hot summer day
shadowing the earth,
a dark breeze
blowing through leafy trees
cooling the heated atmosphere
the ominous celestial rumblings
of distant thunder

I would be
the first drops of rain
a gentle wet hand
promising relief
and the deluge that follows
satisfying the thirsty earth
sheets of water
whipped by wind
overwhelming
swelling streams and rivers

I would be fire from heaven
electrifying the air
wild streaks
brighter than the sun
connecting sky and ground
the thunder crashing all around
the lightening and the storm

I would be for you
the new day that follows
lush and refreshed
damp, calm and green
birds finding their way home
the sky still blue
behind parting clouds
the orange-gold sun
reappearing low in the west
the quiet of the evening
the secrets of the night





Oasis

Russian matrons promenade
Up and down the avenue
But nobody sees you
Anymore.

Before my house
Your garden grows
Again
Impossibly dense
Like some equatorial jungle
Flowers blooming where you bled
Drunkenly miscarrying
Purple, yellow, blue and red
Without you.

Your kindness
Which even before you left
Was a memory
Smoldering like a lunar eclipse
Dimly red among the stars
No longer haunts me.

My walls still stained with your excess
Cacophonous exotic depths
Artistic fits of ego
Their painted gossamer embrace
Which yet for you could not erase
The ordinariness of being.

"Has she moved away?"
Someone asks of me
As if I should know
I saw you once
How many months ago
One lazy evening
While I rocked on my porch swing.
And imagined then
That your scowl and your military gait
Were in my honor
But now I imagine
That you never saw me
Now I know that our misery is our own
And that love is
At best
A glass of water in the desert.

When you left
I did not let myself think of you
I did not wonder
With whom you were
Or if you were drinking yourself to death
For me you were already dead
And I was not bothered
By the calumnious whispers from your grave
I was glad not to see you on the avenue
And soon I forgot.

One day I heard
While I was planting
And tossed away a stone
The bells which had lain hidden
Silently among the brambles
Four seasons
Where you threw them
From a third floor window
When I said that they were mine.

Now they sit on my kitchen table
(The table that you also painted
Adorning it with cosmological hallucinations)
Bits of soil
From the year before I found them
Still clinging to the bronze bellies
Of their Tibetan dragons
And I ring them now and then
To pacify evil spirits
And just recently
Like some brief oasis
Alone
I stumbled on the love
Which once I thought was yours.



Decline

Love falls
Like snowflakes swirling
On the homeless wind.

Like songs that banished angels sing
Muffledly murmuring
Beneath the ice of mountain streams
Flowing ever away.

Falling as the night also falls
From starry heights
To wander vast and alone
Across these frozen fields
On trails of years declining
Like footprints in the snow.



reverie

the leaf has a soul
perfectly surrendered,
each blade of grass
has an angel
telling it to grow,
clouds reflecting in the pond
the water loves the sky,
in the city man is alone
and comes to think
too much of himself





westmore, 1am

after the city
the wedding
everything dropping away
on the long drive north
lights
houses
finally the road itself,
savoring the warm, quiet night
fireflies in the meadow
in front of the lodge
mirroring the stars above,
moon-rise over the ridge
interrupts the darkness
and a few notes from a bird
who thinks it must be dawn



Semblance

I saw you among the flowers
Their wild beauty unencumbered by gravity's pull
Unearthly,
Rising delicately triumphant in summer's early evening air
Celestial,
Rooted only in the sky

Not you, but your semblance
Her hair greying as yours might be
Falling forward across the blossoms
As she bent down to explore the curl of a petal
The boldness of a stamen.

In that twilight watching
From behind I saw you move
With slow feline grace
Fed and lazy down verdant paths
Suspend with you again
In the foolish certainty of youth
That now is all and forever.

I saw you in that garden
Amid roses yet impossibly full of a fragrance which had long since ceased to be.

Not there, but long before
Strolling in unhurried innocence across lawns still dewy with the promise of that first spring
Before the winter
Before the blight.

And I, breathless between two worlds,
Transfixed by your apparition,
Watched in the fading light of my distant reverie as she turned a stranger's face
Not you.
Not there.
How much has been lost.



Dalai Lama

listening to the Dalai Lama
speaking at the Oakland Coliseum
California 1979
addressing in Tibetan
tens of thousands of Bay Area Buddhists
and the curious like me
unable yet to hold his own in English,
sitting there in the thirtieth row
right before falling asleep
(overwhelmed by the spiritual transmission
or exhausted from packing my friend's apartment earlier that day
into the truck which we drove to the talk)
on hearing the interpreter translate an adage,
"if there is a problem and there is something you can do about it,
then there is no need to worry
and if there is a problem and there is nothing you can do about it,
then there is also no need to worry,"
so pushed into sleep's nirvana
renouncing consciousness I realized,
"man, this guy has been on the mountain too long;
if there's something you can do, you do it;
if there's nothing you can do, you give up;
you worry when you don't know what, if anything to do."

the end of everything
is, after all, the end.
it is the continuation of this nothing
that constitutes the real horror



cleaning house

it won't be long now
affairs almost in order
dead ladybugs and bees
swept neatly off the window sill
kitchen counters restored
to a primordial emptiness
the accumulation of years
gathered into purple glass bowls
stones and horns
carob pods and bits of tortured metal
the broken jaw of a fisher cat
dried flower petals thrown out onto the wind
pieces of wood which have lost their significance
out into the yard
naked surfaces
or almost so
dusted

it seemed the time would never come
the past would never
relinquish its hold
upon the future
the present would always
lie buried
beneath everything yet to be done

last night
in my dream
she put both legs
out the bedroom window
sitting precariously on the third story sill
then jumped
I found her below
buried in the earth
whispering to me
promising
"I'll never do that again"

things pile up
taking every available space
useless
misplaced
forgotten
toys and
unsolved puzzles
documents testifying to what was
mementos of lost memories
now stored
or given
or thrown away
each one lovingly considered
one last time
then released
I'll never do that again





closest things

I will take more naps
I will lay in the sun
like the cat
and sleep
stay up past midnight
regarding the darkness
outside my big window
and the
distant street lights
like stars
and the stars
like nothing else
and smoke rising from chimneys
of buildings struggling to keep warm
and write poems
with the cat
sitting on my lap

I will realize that
I am
where I wanted to be
that the adventure is of my choosing
and that it would be insufferably boring
if the outcome were already sure
the future
may not be ours to hold
but the moment is in hand
a cup of tea
Hayden on the radio
fingers playing with each other
cars driving home
along the avenue

ordinary mysteries
questions without answers
I will take
more comfort
in the asking





crows

when I reach out she pulls away
when I call she doesn't answer
it is my fault
right from the start
she made it clear
she keeps coming back
but she's not really here

the crows don't seem to mind that its 20 degrees
their brave silhouettes flapping in long procession across the western sky
in twos and tens, eight and twenty eight
the sun just set they keep coming
a break and then more
now fifty
they move like notes in some ecstatic symphony written upon the opalescent sky
they seem as if they're in a hurry
light fading
temperature dropping
I see them through my big third-floor windows
almost as high as they are
I know where they're going
thousands of crows congregate in the trees behind a supermarket
by the highway
about a mile south of here
their cawing as they come to roost this time of day is magnificent
thousands of crows each staking their claim to their little bit of branch
coming in from miles around in all directions
a huge choir of feathered beings
huddling together against the night
taking comfort in belonging



disregard

the L-rd works in mysterious ways
writing inscrutably between the lines
shifting scenes behind closed curtains
changing the world while we sleep

hive and herd
school and flock
humanity
but not the individual
matters

a few villages slaughtered
do not change
the course of history
the symphony plays as well
with a few different notes

it is the whole
and not the parts
that is important
there is no other explanation
for Divinity's disregard

it is obscene to say
the young deserve to die
impossible to believe
the innocent
(however few there are)
merit
the punishment received

there must be some other perspective
which we are not afforded
some purpose which is concealed
it is easy
to lose faith
personally
the world is often cruel
or senseless at best
G-d seemingly unconcerned

animals keep making animals
continuing the species
the world keeps spinning
madly through the void
it is only some trick of gravity
that keeps us all
from falling off





endgame

life closes in
like wolves for the kill
the infinite possibilities of youth
narrow
again and again
fleet hooves pounding the tall grass of the prairie
with no where to run.
the pack confidently pursuing
sure of its prey
one day following the other
towards an all too definite outcome
hot breath and fangs
brought down from behind
or cornered among the rocks
the quarry finds its end.
the years conspire against us
seasons deceiving us with their regularity
losing ground each fateful turn
somewhere up ahead the chase is over
the run of the hunted
finished
the trail ends
suddenly or slowly
howling or without a sound
the circle is closing
it all falls down





enlightenment

sooner or later
you have to give up
certain that
there is not going to be
a happy ending
continually
things fall apart
refusing the wholeness
forced upon them
surrender
becomes the only option
when
after a long
or shorter while
it becomes apparent
that
something is missing
ingredients left out of the recipe
wondering what's wrong with the picture
doesn't help
imagination only fails
to encompass reality
things will not change
not the way you want them to
not soon enough
you run out of cards to play
realizing that the game
from the start
has been stacked against you
the characters don't fit the parts
the setting is off
the action not right
you stop trying

somehow then
when everything is lost
unnoticed
something new is born
bathed in tears
it comes into the world
small, insignificant
inhabiting the broken places
a stranger
feeding on the corpse
of your dreams





entropy

it all
must fall
apart
the former ways of doing
and being
the caterpillar dissolving
inside the cocoon
into a slippery goo

the impossibility of our position
not apparent
until we are forced
out of it
the bitter pill swallowed

it's the letting go
deconstruction
the ground quaking
slipping away
disappearing
beneath our feet

the night forest
waiting for us
strange shadows
hovering
beyond the fire's glow

the familiar
no longer of service
the rules
have lost their application
all this
may yet prove medicinal
freedom's steely blade
performing the necessary resection
in time
a butterfly
may emerge
but
that's not the way it feels
now





F2

yes
I want to start a new game
I have never wanted anything
so much as this
to go back to the beginning
undo the mistakes
play it over again
knowing what I now know
stay longer
leave quicker
navigate those turns
more decisively

we are lulled by the cyber hum
entranced by the computer's promise
of flawless efficiency
of virtual
anonymous relationships
data masquerading as knowledge
knowledge impersonating wisdom
hit F2 and get on with it
now press Enter
and leave the past behind





fooled again

Abraham
ran to greet them
out into the sandy heat
to lead them back
through the thankless
desert sun
to the shade of his tent
mistaking them for men
he washed their feet
and bade Sarah make them
something to eat

three angels come
one to announce the birth
of a laughing boy
one two cities
to destroy
one to save
his nephew
from destruction

they sat with him
and for his sake
appeared to eat
for angels take no food
and Sarah laughed
when she heard
that she would have a son
and the one who told
went back
to where from angels come
and two went on
to kill
and to save
what could be saved
to Sodom's gate
where there again
they were mistook for men
this time
with fiery consequence

angels masquerading
move among us
as though they were
of flesh and blood
performing wonders
vague or clear
but look
before they disappear
they do not really eat
nor is there dust
upon their feet





forty soon

at thirty
still young
and untried
he has only his toughness
to fall back on
a callousness
based on naivety
allowing for no mistakes
in himself
or others
speaking little
smiling less
one is free
to feel uncomfortable
in his presence
his moods and opinions
often inscrutable
one is free
to imagine the worst
and yet I think
that it is he who doesn't understand
who somehow cannot
imagine his own feelings
that he doesn't trust himself
that his silence derives
not from calculation
but from its lack
from not knowing what to say

someone who knows him well
said
during commiseration
that he would be forty soon
no
I replied
he just turned thirty
then he said it
again
and then
I knew what he meant
life has a way of catching you
puncturing youthful certainty
inflicting wounds
which won't ever heal
maybe he senses it coming
maybe it's already started
the gazelle
feeling the lions closing in
the confusion
after all that openness
of having nowhere to run

it's always a mistake
to take it personally
the discomfort and mistrust
the hostility
are mostly for himself
I just caught the overflow
but I'm learning
how to avoid that
how to stay out of the way

a little distance
a little time
things were easier between us before
and I believe
they will be again
he'll be turning forty soon





free floating

free of all attribution
still
it claims its place
nowhere to roost
it hovers about
a sour gas in the stomach
a vapor in the atmosphere

the day
the week
contained a strange peace
a greater appreciation for the way things are
a sprouting of things long dormant
a dream forgotten
recollected
the race continues
but the runner finds his pace

still it claims
its pound of flesh
something is very wrong
and not within our power to fix
even when we are surrounded by laughter
our bellies warm and full
even when the hope of love
presses up through snow
like the first flowers of spring
it waits for us
the earth wobbles on its axis
humanity blunders along
on its painful course

the tragedy
is of our own making
we are unable to digest the food
set before us
the sun shines too brightly
and so we turn away
into the shadows

tonight there is nothing to blame
objectively there is relief
and satisfaction in many facets
the future rich with promise
still the skinny beggar calls
an emptiness
gnawing at the soul
a cold rain falling
from these clouds of glory





freedom

all is complete
there is
nothing more
each moment and thing
perfect unto itself
one no longer leading
to another
the end of desiring
a breath expired
let go

it has all led to this
without my knowing
birds flown south
leaves fallen from the trees
the world erased
beneath
the snow's white
forgiveness

the sought for reward
achieved
a strange
and horrible peace
an equipoise
allowing no movement
the diamond's static symmetry
life compressed
into a jewel
finished

all that came before is over
torn and fading
slipping away
like a dream
in the night
who will I be
when I wake in the morning?





human dilemma

it's just that we are too close
the forest disappearing amidst the trees
the required perspective so rarely achieved
she loves me, she loves me not, she loves me…
who can tell?
years and great distances are needed for its unfolding
one life is so short
what's good is bad
what's bad is good
we are to be forgiven our confusion and our lack of faith
possessing no measure but our hope and fear
if you do not cling
then you are swept away
if you hold fast
then you are lost
hopelessness is a required ingredient of success
freedom is a double-edged sword
after all we are permitted our little pleasures
moments of quiet comfort
signifying nothing
and maybe
looking back
the pieces seem to fit
a vague understanding fleetingly dawns
the sun appearing momentarily
below the overcast
as it rises
or sets
climb a mountain
or stand at the edge of the sea
lift your eyes from the encircling familiar and regard the unknown
stare out into the darkness between the stars
look back with the eyes of the stars
listen with a different ear to the sound of your heart beating
there is greatness within reach
but it is not ours
we are part of a symphony, but not the player
be still, be still
I love you more than words can tell




moon

where before
was only darkness
and the light of distant stars
she rises
complete unto herself

she rises
full and bright

the crescent and
the gibbous
the phases and the fragments
made whole
within her light

from nothing such perfection comes
without antecedent

incomplete
a thing apart
whole and pure
bears upon her now
can claim her for their own

suddenly the moon is full
shining
from her midnight zenith
down upon
the still fresh snow



finds you

people said it would happen like this
you have to be
not looking anymore
and then it finds you



sweet dreams

such things
are not of the earth
like heaven's moon
suddenly full
casting its beams
down
from impossible heights
stars
arranging our fortunes
from distances
too great to imagine

stories
not of this world
of heroes and gods
of angels who visit man
wounding him
with their beauty
consuming him
with their fiery truth

hopes
which cannot live outside the heart
delicate unborn veins
sighs of love
dispersing
like smoke on the wind

phantoms which flee the day
shadows retreating
into the night
stranding us on morning's shore
with memories
of all
that never was
dreams
of what will never be


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Free Verse 2

 

the flight of birds

pigeons take suddenly to flight
launching themselves with great vigor
from roofs across the avenue
circling in the sky
wings madly flapping
their small flock
splits in two
flies apart
then noticing the other's absence
comes together again

all this performed
against the fleecy overcast of a Sunday afternoon
invites our speculation
what portents these?
what auguries?
such arts now lost to man

see how they return
perching separately
on peaks and cornices
unruffled
patiently awaiting
the next strong urge
or lightly playful cue
the voice of heaven
the flight of birds
a language we once knew




the heart grows fond

rest is best
when you are tired
food
when you are hungry
home
when you
have been away
quiet
after the noise

the common things
lost in their ordinariness
will
one day
be missed the most
sunshine
idly lingering
on the rug
the cat ensconced
upon the couch
the softness
of my father's flesh

these are the days
now
just now
this is the place
here
and here again





the right answer

during the second world war
fleeing Hitler's armies
Jews escaped
crossing Russia
and Siberia
finding refuge
in China
which had
not long before
been conquered
by Japan

when the nazis
asked their Japanese allies
to imprison the Jews
Japanese generals
called a meeting with
leaders of the Jewish community
asking what Hitler had against them

well the rabbis replied
we are an asian people
Israel being on the other side of Asia
and Hitler hates Asian peoples

with that said
the meeting was concluded
and the Jews lived
safely in China
for the rest
of the war



not moon

the street light
is not the moon




unanswered

the signs are apparent
but their significance
eludes us
coincidences abound
pregnant with meaning
which yet refuses
to be born
the finger of G-d
taps us on the shoulder
turning our head
we see nothing

the world was left unfinished
to see
what we would make of it
the riddle incomplete
the joke's on us
there is no answer
there are too many
kaleidoscopic permutations
yesterday
today
tomorrow
what was the question?

the poor dull mind
craves certainty
desperately attempting to discern
what is before us
searching for
the solid ground
wary of
the precipice's edge
somehow one foot
must be placed
in front of the other

we all need something to believe in
a path on which to go
philosophies compete for our attention
where you hang your hat
makes all the difference
for now
I think I'll keep mine
on my head





until when?

he was a spiritual master
the seventh of his line
he worked miracles around the world
without leaving Brooklyn

his intellect astounded great minds
his heart overflowed with compassion
for his people and the world

tirelessly he worked
inspiring thousands to do the same
thousands of centers
opened at his direction
around the globe
continue reaching out
to those who have gone astray

the messiah is coming
the messiah is here
he assured us
just open your eyes
it is the end of days
the signs have all been fulfilled

seven years now he is gone
dying without a successor
and still the messiah has not come
his flock carries on without a shepherd
moving along well-trodden paths
from pasture to pasture
sustaining each other
and the young
who never saw for themselves
with stories of his grace and magic

new centers open
the old work continues
tradition and commandments
there is a sense that he has not left.
his followers
bearded men
in their long black coats and hats
women
modestly attired
their hair hidden
leave prayers and written requests
at his grave

the years continue their glacial advance
with no end in sight
the promise remains unfulfilled
the fault no doubt our own
do we want it badly enough?

what of that spiritual vision
those eyes which looked into heaven
and opened
beaming into our own
encouraging us
exhorting
that surely he was coming
surely he was here?

for you Rebbe
but not for us
not yet.





untried

the intervening days have passed
but the waiting is not over
stars falling westward
disappearing from the sky

beyond hope and disappointment
promises unspoken
remain broken
the uncounted lights of heaven
unconcerned

it comes when you no longer need it
after you have found your own
or learned to live without
or stopped believing
the moon hiding in shadows

the dream recurs
vividly
almost real
within reach
yet untenable
closeness rendering the pain exquisite
tragedy is good practice
light from the heart of space
after this thaw
winter will return





valentines

not one
but all
not here
but everywhere
not now
but ever

love swells
and breaks the heart
a bird
escaping its shell
the wind
cannot be kept
inside a bottle





visitation

she is quite delicate
at least
since her injury
two years ago
her back twisted
somehow out of joint
made worse
by a vigorous
schedule of dance
from which
she did not
soon enough relent
she follows now
with great faithfulness
a program of physical therapy,
exercises
and guarded forays
out into the world

her stomach
discomforted by many foods
her bowels
easily poisoned
she eats
almost only
that which her hands have made
still
when I met her
over a year ago
coming as she did
for her simple lunch
of veggies, tofu and rice
to the restaurant
which was mine
making light conversation
over the counter
I did once
when the chef was away
cook for her
the meal myself

a year now
the place is closed
and I've seen her once or twice
walking
as I drove by
but would not interrupt
the measured reverie of her steps
then
not long ago
she looked me up
asking for some help
with her fragile digestion

looking at her
I am reminded
of all that is fine
that which resides
in this world
only imperfectly
or perfectly
but only for the moment
the dew which falls from heaven
and then returns
the moon
which finds fullness
then loses it again
an elegant moth
whose wings are spoiled
by touch
the sunshine felt
but never held
a distant song
carried on the breeze
a love unbound

her smile
an angel's wing
brushing me in its flight
I want to help
to return the medicine
which she is for me
watching her
like I watch the sun
red
setting in the sea





who knows?

there are offers
but I can't decide
a host of possibilities
but I just don't know
the usual predispositions don't have the same attraction
old compulsions have lost their thrill
the pressure's off
and I find myself with more time and less inclination
long term strategies present themselves
but with variables unclear
plans are up in the air
who can say?

the uncertainty is delicious
a variety of flavors
the present moment richer
now that there's nothing to prove
the current scene tastier
now that there's nowhere to go
a freedom in not knowing

it won't last
things never do
but a corner's been turned
and there's no going back
I'm in no hurry
and maybe that's the point
you need to be lost
before you can be found
but right now
I'm not looking





you are the world

all that you search for is already yours
rivers cascading through your veins
mountains sculpted in your bones
eternity warm within your flesh

the young of the forest nurse at your breast
deer, rabbit, fox and bear
from your eyes the sun shines forth
winds issue from the hair of your head
in your heart wolves howl at the moon

the sky's starry vault and blue expanse
revolve within your skull
your bowels, veins of ore rooted deeply in the earth
lightening flashes up your nerves
heaven's gate opening there between your legs

there is no lack
all is done and done again;
in readiness
the throne waits only for the queen to sit upon it

the miracle
lost in its own simplicity
is hard to grasp
not used to such completeness
we doubt

the salts of the ocean
flow in our blood and tears
we are the sea upon which we sail
one day you will cease your restless wanderings
and come home to yourself



 

 

a change of season

leaves softly complain
to summer's last warm breezes
rustling on the boughs
anticipating their colorful demise

the river will not be pushed
the stone will never bleed
the old lady is so alone
far removed from all relationship
resisting any attempt to challenge her isolation
rejecting affection and assistance
obscenely raging against
such imperfect offerings
and I
am just unlucky enough
to be her son

it seems so important
until
it stops seeming so






after you left

after two years without a visit
after a perfect evening
watching the sunset from the roof
feeling how your confidence has grown
sharing a dream for the future
after a smooth ride
over the mountain
in your car
to a great meal
on the patio
of my restaurant
after hearing more
on the ride home
of your love
for the two Israeli brothers
one with you up in Vermont
one in Japan
after your polite refusal to come upstairs
and the hug we took
in my back yard
by way of goodbye
and you drove away
and I carried up the cat
who met me halfway down
after I folded up the massage table
and felt the needs of my flesh
still satisfied from some magic in your hands
after all this
I saw your two rings
placed on the desk
while you were stroking and stretching me
where they sit
one stone blue and one green
their silver settings
reflecting the lamplight
like the moon reflects the sun
ornaments of your beauty
two rings
and me
left here
remembering the sweetness
of your finger's touch



downward

ambition fades
reason stumbles
strength fails
I just want to go to bed



anticipation

it is easy to mistake
one for the other
to look ahead
with imperfect clairvoyance
and imagine that the time has already come
to see in other faces
reflections of a day
which has not yet dawned
the certainty
of the moment's correctness
proving once again
premature
life unfolding
at its own
excruciating pace
will not be hurried
by the accuracy of our prescience
wanting it to be
does not make it so
the wrong hill
the wrong dog
the wrong love
futilely maintaining
that which has not been
suffering the loss
of what is not yet ours
repeatedly

still now
the signs seem so complete
the water never looked so sweet
oasis or mirage?
the desert sun
plays cruel games
upon our thirsty senses





belatedly

it's like a joke
you don't get
until much later
laughter erupting
out of time

a riddle
which remains unsolved
until some wintry night
when you're all alone
waiting for sleep to come

something forgotten
that leaves
a tickling trace
a thought which won't form
a glimpse
from the corner of the eye
an itch
that can't be scratched

something is missing
but what
and where
and would it be known
if seen
if it hit
right between the eyes?

a kiss on the cheek
an hour spent on the front porch
after dinner
clouds catching fire
before the setting sun
small pleasures
sustaining us
until the lost is found
until the riddle answers itself
and we realize
that the joke is on us
and we are done
with our remembering





certainty

certainty is the last to go
or is it the first
who knows?
who can remember?
the day starts out in clouds
but by morning's middle
the sky is clear
birds flying for fun
winging without intention
knowledge is death
winning is the end of the game
moving is only
through mystery
the hush of night in the forest
the hawk gliding effortlessly
in slow circles
through the lazy, blue suburban sky
forget what you know
then forget that you have forgotten
the clouds do not effect the sun
but only block it from our view





Daedalus revisited

she makes a virtue of her pain
down the avenue, around the corner
this I have learned not to take personally
people are where they are
and only rarely leave
no matter how unhappy
unable to muster the urgency for change
life slipping away
in unnoticed increments
each day appearing remarkably like the last
it's hard to see yourself growing older

waiting for someone to be someone else
this is my fault
believing
seeing the golden possibility
inflamed by a love not yet born

earthbound
she is not ready for flight
still collecting experiences
she will not play her hand
it is not me
not the poverty of what I have to offer
it is an aloofness she mistakes for independence
not just from me
but from all
an opposition which defines her
an unwillingness to merge
a fear of dissolution

her mother's daughter
she is good at finding fault
the thousand inconsistencies apparent
with things looked at up close
my preference is for the clouds
the heights from which all resolves
into harmonies of color and form
the lightheaded, dizzying skies

it is my fault for believing she is someone else
for wanting someone to fly with





disconnect

there's poison in the water
there's cancer in the air
we don't live like we ought to
there's sickness everywhere

the food we eat is toxic
the planet has been wrecked
they're only trying to help you
zone out and disconnect


the government is stealing
your health and liberty
their crime and dirty dealing
betray the whole country

they sell it in the back room
the men who you elect
their promises all make you
zone out and disconnect

there's murder in the third world
their wealth all drains away
the pirate flag has unfurled
our army saves the day

we're sure that God in heaven
approves and will protect
we go to church on Sunday
zone out and disconnect

it all keeps going faster
things keep on breaking down
we're heading for disaster
in our own waste we drown

we don't see where we're going
solutions we reject
life's just one great big party
zone out and disconnect

our neighbors they are strangers
we're lost to our family
the city's full of dangers
the root's are pulling free

each friendly face a come on
each person a suspect
go home and pull the shades down
zone out and disconnect



down to this

it all comes down to this
one perfect act
or purpose
a song sung together
a walk home
on a Saturday afternoon
in mid-September
sitting on the front porch
as the day
and the summer
and our lives
ebb away

something needs to be said
but having been said
there is only silence
something needs doing
but once accomplished
nothing remains

we are at best
a brick in the wall
a link in the chain
the grandeur rests upon us
but is not ours
the current flowing
passes through us
and is gone

an onion given to a poor woman
care rendered to the aged
the act of giving birth

there is a long waiting
crowned by quiet meaning
then it is over
somehow I had hoped
for something more





enough

that's all there is
the grass isn't greener
either side of the fence
pulled by hope
or pushed by dissatisfaction
it doesn't matter
it just doesn't get any better
that's all she wrote
end of story

left off from unfair comparisons
with an idealized future
here becomes enough
unmolested by the chorus of desires and fears
now increases in value
the present again and again
imposing its primacy

the cat content to sleep away the hot summer afternoon
uncertainty forming and dissipating
as naturally as clouds in the sky
things just right
or not so
missing and catching
mother's anger welling up through the floorboards
a breeze from the electric fan

take what's offered
before going off to look for something else
a journey off a thousand miles
is only ever a step at a time
one foot in front of the other
again and again
what were you expecting?

the greatest philosophical musings
metaphysical realms of religious splendor
nothing compares with the feeling
of a naked foot
in the long dewy grass
of a summer morning





exile

watching from outside
acted on unknowingly
I refuse to dance
but am unable to sit still

life is beautiful enough
but suspect
like a dreamer who knows he is asleep
I look for the edge of the screen
disbelieving the action in front of me

others succumb to the drug of their choice
or to the opiate ingested unwittingly
money, murder, marriage, madness
zombies
circling around me
pursuing desires
like dogs chasing their tails

there is an order of things
a structure to the universe
from which I am excluded
wisdom lost
balance forgotten
the train is passing
but I cannot get aboard
what strange land is this?





fragments

from such a puny perspective
it's impossible to see
it coming together
or falling apart
the forces so large
they defy identification
the path
cannot be apprehended
in its entirety
a comet speeding
out beyond the solar system
only to return
ellipses, spirals
octaves revisited
grand cycles
unrevealed to the iota
inscrutable
in the minutia
which is our lives

our doubt may then be forgiven
the equivocation and disbelief
waking here
amid the loss and senseless clutter
unable to distinguish
the sacred from the profane
which way the earth is turning
what story is being told
what place we have in its telling
we are to be forgiven
unable to recognize
birth from death
the end or the beginning
a step forward
from reverse
we surround ourselves
with our own creations
taking comfort
in the small ways
in which we are allowed to know
holding fast
to the better and worse





genie

you are away
working, living at some undisclosed children's home in Indiana
no phone number, no e-mail address
electronic media unreliable
thrown back on letters
I sit down to write you
when my phone rings
and my heart does a little jump
expecting it might be you
conjured up
like a genie from a lamp
by the force of my love
projecting out over western Connecticut
this night with the moon almost full
broadcasting over New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois
rubbing up against you
somewhere west of Indianapolis
like Emmy the cat
would if you were here
but you're not
and it's not you either
when I pick up the phone
(but Chris calling from Vermont)

the last time you called
only a whisper on a conference line with your sister
leaving a number
for the second time
which didn't work
I called her back
to be reassured that I had the number right
your voice was so faint
and then to complain about how hard you are to reach
agreeing that it was somehow appropriate
perfectly poetic of you
to be so incommunicado
agreeing how elusive you were
even when you were here
(sorry, but it's true)

it's all what you make it
as pretty as you feel
a story we tell each other
and our selves
a dream in which we believe

I think about you every day
every night when I go to bed
I imagine you
here up against my closed eyelids
sometimes standing before me
sometimes wrapped in my embrace
here among the sweetest, warmest treasures
that come to soothe me into sleep.
a creature of dreams
smoke escaping from a magic lamp
granting my heart's only wish,
to dream along with you





here

let the days pass as they will
there is no grand resolution
the scene replays itself
again and again
the forces at work are much too large
we are the fortunate ones
winners of the great gamete lottery
the lucky sperm and egg
in their infinite permutations
stopping on our number
the offspring of survivors

the dream returns
salmon swimming upstream
to spawn
and die where they were born
butterflies
crossing the continent
on impossibly delicate wings
to where winter is unknown
the end wedged in the beginning
the outcome here from the start
it is all done and done again
it is only we
who believe that it is different
the story is as old as time
generation upon generation
dancing to the same old tune
lives consumed
by the simple act
of living





home

one morning
which is every morning
one day
which is all
greenest leaf
most blue sky
now there can be
no other

time
turning in on itself
swallows its tail
and disappears.
moments of crystalline perfection
cease to follow each other,
each instant
an eternity
complete unto itself

orientation lost
the compass needle spins
as everywhere
comes to rest
quite elegantly
here.
all roads returning
the journey ends
where it began

ten thousand wishes
blown like seeds on the wind
ten thousand dim imaginings
now taking root
in the dark, secret earth.
across the threshold
the traveler reluctantly
lays his burden down.
warily
like a sleeper
wakening from dreams
becoming yields to being





incomplete

it's there
close enough to hurt
like a splinter
pressing a nerve
only when the finger tip
reaches out
to touch

something imperfectly forgotten
just below the surface
a rock in a swift, shallow river
disturbing the flow of thoughts
without making itself apparent

a duty neglected
known only by its absence
like a black hole
perceptible only by the distortions it creates
the counterfeit anxieties engendered

a fruit not yet ripe
promised
enticing
out of reach

something needs doing
a cryptic demand
gnawing the heart and brain
a constellation
hovering unseen
below the horizon
a destiny
formed by
the slow passage of planets
through the star wheel
frozen
in the glacial movement of time





irredeemable

in hindsight
the mistakes are too clear
not enough effort
or too much
bad choices
wrong attitudes
roads not taken
sorry excuses

this looking back is not fair
you don't know
until you know
and by then
it's almost always too late
the train done gone
and she's not coming back

and we can live with the regret
the bitter taste of all that wasn't
and will not be
the empty spasm of shame
deep in the belly
we can eek out our sustenance
from the produce of this poor land
watered by sweat and tears
surviving beneath history's awful weight

it is only
that it is not over
the process not confined to the past
blindly we continue in the error of our ways
squandering opportunities
growing old
unable to discern the missteps
as we make them
oblivious to the blunders
until it is too late
and it is already too late





just goes to show

opportunities squandered
bubbles burst
poor estimates
inaccurate appraisals
bad guesses
talents uncultivated
regrets piling up
like snowflakes in a blizzard
insult adding to injury
half-truths alternating with lies
mistakes
the easiest things to make

you start out wanting to believe
hoping that this will be the one
ignoring the signs
to the contrary
needing it to be different
from all that came before
to somehow justify the journey
all the false starts
the paths not taken
still
one day
without even seeing
you know
that what's inside
is not for you
leave the bags at the door
turn
and walk away

it just goes to show
as if you didn't know already
how wrong you can be





legends

something needs telling
a kernel
needing to grow
along with the oak
in the acorn
constrained by youth
root-bound by the awkward earth
in which it has been seeded
an embryo
clinging to life
multiplying infinitesimally
inside some dark womb
a story to be told
destiny unfolds
gradually gaining focus

she was born twenty-five
her father confided to me
after midnight
when she was already
an hour gone
from the play
with her kudos and roses
back with her friends to her dorm-room
and I could forgive myself
for forgetting that she was only seventeen

there is a time beyond time
a life
beyond the skin's taut necessity
where lost souls
come home to roost
around a glowing hearth
where cycles are complete
and tales are all remembered
where I
can be forgiven
for forgetting





love letter

am I in love
or just a fool
or just a fool in love?

are you a woman
or a dream
or the woman of my dreams?

I see you inside out
now
as you will one day be
and love you there
your secrets already revealed
to me

before you left
you were afraid
to fall where we were hanging
you held fast
and only seldom felt
the wind beneath your wings

and also I was afraid
to love you as you deserved
afraid to have the dream come true
unable too long
to endure
the exhilaration of flight

but now the world has come of age
spinning love's threads
into a stronger cord
binding us together

now the heart demands its due
commanding us
beyond those other
false approximations
beyond the pain that came before
to trust and try
once more
to fly

come, oh Sweetest Breeze
my songs will put your mind at ease
come and dream with this fool
a perfect world of love





messages

you called
while I was out
twice
your voice
left on the machine
greeted me
from places between
Colorado and Indianapolis
when I returned
much closer to home

you are off
in some distant spring
with your lust
for wandering
leading you on

your voice
here to be replayed
reminds me again
of that infinite embrace
easily shared
one perfect Saturday afternoon
when last you visited
how we came together
stretched across my wine-colored bed
with the sunshine and the cat

I believe in love
and dreams come true
I believe in magic
I believe in you

as night falls
again you are out on the plains
darkness creeping westward
across that vast expanse
two misses
you will wait to call again
still full of you
I wait patiently
for your voice on the phone
and the touch of your body next to mine
I wait
keeping the home fires burning





meteorology

storm watch
winter weather advisory
flood warning
they try to scare the hell out of you
and with many they've already succeeded
it doesn't matter how many times they're wrong
they just keep coming back
bold-faced
no shame

on television it is easy to avoid
a sensationalized weather report coming up
right after this word from our sponsor
just turn the channel
but on the radio they sneak it in
several times an hour
between the music
dire predictions
impending meteorological crises

here in Connecticut
we don't have flashfloods
I don't give a damn what the national weather service says about it.
it's overblown
a simple rainstorm
is treated like a hurricane
three inches of snow
is enough to close schools,
businesses,
and maybe the state
people clear off supermarket shelves
stock up on batteries
as if the Russians were invading
suburban housewives creep along
a lightly snow-dusted road
like they are off-road in Alaska

maybe it's a sense of guilt
expecting heavenly retribution
for our lives
lived so far
out of balance
the world striking back
at the insults she has suffered from us
but when that comes
it will be more than a snowstorm
forty days and forty nights
might be enough to wash away our sins
until then people need a way to explain their insecurity
a home for their fear
glued to the weather channel
they anxiously await the next bulletin
the network doing what it does
to deliver viewers
to sell those commercials
the weather report
more entertainment than fact
and they've got us where they want us
a nation of cowards
fleeing when no one pursues
if it comes right down to it
big business can crush an insurrection
getting people off the streets
just by issuing
a winter weather advisory





midnight coda

half-way through the eleventh hour
the night will not get any blacker
the musicians on the radio
playing syncopating
swinging rhythms
are all
already
dead

I saw it coming
everything the old man told me
proving true
sometimes
years after the telling
undeniable
no matter how much I tried
the apple
always falling close

the cat is already sleeping
on the foot of the bed
the jazz show
approaches its finale
with mournful piano
and philosophical trumpet
today slipping rapidly
towards tomorrow
moment after moment
note following note
harmonies drawing to a close
a smattering of applause
then the announcer's voice
one last time

drink up now
it's time to close





mirrors

it's easy to miss it
to not see
that you are staring
at your reflection
each surface
person and situation
mirrors self
none other
for better or worse
the love is your own
the oppression
self-inflicted
Narcissus staring
into the water of life
everything you like
everything that bothers
comes from inside
like attracts like
as the man said
"A dog chews on a dry bone
until its gums bleed.
Tasting the blood
he thinks the bone is sweet."
this is a once
depressing and empowering
depressing
because we are responsible
for our own suffering
empowering
because we can change our world
we are full of ourselves
over-spilling
projecting self out over the world
the ancients recommended
the end of self
direct, unmediated perception
enlightenment





namaste

Oh, Noble One,
you who carry in your heart
the imperishable fire of truth,
I salute you.
Long have you dwelt
among profane people
who have not recognized
the sanctity of your being.
I greet you as brother, lover and friend
bowing
to the wisdom of your soul blossoming within,
worshipping the fruits of your compassion.
The thunderbolt of our love
penetrates dark mists
proclaiming liberation
with its overwhelming flash and roar.
Angels applaud our union
destined for all times.
Heaven delights in the fountain of our love
whose overflowing
waters the earth
spreading blessings
like rivers from Eden.
Arise my sister, my bride
see how the moon illuminates the city and field
come my queen
let me delight in the wonders of your presence.





no exit

it carries over
whether you know it
or not
damned if you do
or don't
especially if you don't

a smell
wafting up from the basement
musty and sour
overpowering
when the wind is just right

playing hide and seek
on the tip of
something else
a moment ago
below the radar
out of the corner of the eye
blind spots

then right up front
like it never left
which it hasn't
the same old same old
blocking the view
staring you down
coming back like a bad penny

a dull ache
a sharp pain
it never goes away
circling overhead
prowling off in the bush
biding its time
waiting to pounce again
cat and mouse
and we're the mouse
wounded with no where to run
no exit
no escape

it carries over
reminding us when we forget
everything else is just a distraction
until there is no more distraction
until it's everything you have
until you have nothing
everything you are
until you are nothing
waking you up in the morning
putting you to bed
watching over you while you sleep
all and nothing
the only way out is through
and when you're through
you're through
a constant companion
a shadow ignored
while you're staring into the sun





no takers

after trying
for two dozen years
to change the world
I have concluded
that the world
does not want
to be changed,
by and large
we are an unimaginative lot
who want
if not more of the same
then the same
only more
all the pretty things
we see on TV,
it's all sewn up
the fix is in
and nobody really gives a good damn,
intellectually neutered
emotionally spayed
we've lost the ability
to react to another's suffering
or even to our own,
life as a spectator event
comfort in the herd
lemmings towards the cliff,
after all
it seems to be
a private thing
an experience
which can only be grasped
by those
who have lived it
the blessing
and curse
of the initiated
nobody wants to know
you can't give it away
the truth plays
like an orphan
in the alley way






playing at love

she is lonely
and so am I
we both need a little comfort
she wants to believe that it is more
I don't want to hurt her feelings
I tell her
I am incapable of love
she maintains that it may grow
I like to touch her
but there is something desperate
in the way she touches back
as if she is feeling for something
groping
clutching
I slip away
after the passion that drew us together
is spent
caressing her
as I slowly take my leave

it is possible
to talk yourself into
or out of
almost anything
to screw up a good thing
to miss your boat when it finally comes in

we have been hurt very badly
staggering forward
skittishly retreating
into each others arms

it is an act of kindness
succor from her breast
the winter in my veins
thawing beneath her sun
the summer of her touch
warming the chill upon my soul
a simple, animal giving
to fill that empty, primal need

the desert beats upon my brain
with all its cruel mirages
visions inspired by thirst and sand
when suddenly she is there
stretched before me
like some green oasis
tall palms blowing in the breeze
and I bend down
beside her pool
to drink from that sweet fountain
pure waters from her depths
and am revived

the ancient hunger demands bread
the night requires a candle
what's difficult for me
for her is ease
I am not so hard to please
the scraps from off her table
I would take more if I were able





self-referential

it's the height of selfishness
or the low point
or the norm
everyone watching out for their own ass
polar icecaps shrinking
penguins and polar bears
soon to be extinct outside of zoos
but my air conditioning is still working
unable to see beyond our own
immediate comfort
except to plan for its continuation.
it's nice to be warm and dry
with a full belly
but what do you do then?
bodily gratification wears thin
then out
and needs time to recover
satiety happens
and then surfeit
still
all they want is more
but more is never enough
to hell with the starving masses
the diminishing resources
the over-polluted earth
I don't care if there's chemicals in it
as long as my lettuce is crisp
it's the same old game
and they're happy to go on winning
fascinated,
well no, not fascinated
but comfortable with the victory
hands down
no challenge
not curious about what lies
over the next mountain
or in the next heart
unless there's something in it for me
the smallest definition of self
a solipsistic solar system
me at the center
held together by the gravity of self interest
yea, well what else is there
and yes
that's the problem
animals overfeeding at the trough
it's the same old song
but it's time to change the tune.


Back to top

 

Free Verse 3

 

uncertain presents

God wants something from us
but He's not very good at asking
maybe He wants to be surprised
to see what we come up with on our own
maybe He's not sure Himself
yes, prayer and acts of kindness
justice and thanksgiving
but after these requisites
something more
something creative
self-motivated
an original composition
thinking is merely procuring the supplies
canvas, paint and brushes
then there is the doing
line and form
color and negative space
boldness and commitment

the bird sings in the tree for no other reason
the sunset explodes
the cat inscrutably
purrs upon the carpet

God doesn't know what He wants from us
and so we are to be forgiven
for our uncertain presents
and for not knowing
just what we want from God.





unity

parallel lines converge
space curves
the universe turning in on itself.
two thousand years ago
the rabbis said
that if three people tell you you're drunk
you have to lie down
significant coincidences
wheels within wheels
concentric orbits
the stuff keeps coming around
more when you're closer to the center
synchronicities
divine taps on the shoulder
obscure references repeat
the words of a magazine article
corroborating premonitions
the name of an obscure Egyptian deity
written in the corner of the cashier's nametag
later jumps off the page of a book
on and on and again
this must be the essential oneness of existence
uniqueness disappearing
distinctions merging
the field is getting limited
plots reduced
only a few stories to tell
love and war
strong men and beautiful women
strong women and beautiful men
it's all already done
all been done before
only so many souls to go around
souls keep going around
reflections in a house of mirrors
the knowledge knowing which all is known
the philosophers' stone
wisdom reaching beyond itself
the cornerstone of the Temple
it all comes back to your navel
back to where it started
the umbilical center of the world
the dreams of an old man
left to himself





uprising

it rises up
a bloated corpse
returning to the surface
the odor of rot
fills living nostrils
the scent of its putrefaction
penetrating sinuses, skull and brain
intoxicating nerves
polluting thought
overwhelming sense

the night ride home
air heavy with mist and fog
impatient at the red light
the stupid delay
that wasn't there before
then along the back road
frogs sprint
elated by much-needed rain
hopping past
crushed amphibian carcasses
brown splotches
punctuating wet, black, gleaming asphalt
tires slow and swerve to save a life
and then another
in acts of ineffective atonement

it rises
a sour burp
from something eaten long ago
fermenting undigested
unstomached
a noxious gas of guilt
a miasma of regret
an atmospheric pressure
weighing down the very pulse of life

it will not be kept down
availing itself of grand pretext
or the slightest excuse
still it has no need of these
requiring no invitation
naked and dark
it triumphs over human intention

shadows of the forest stretch across the road
vapors congeal amidst the trees
obscuring this narrow sylvan way
choked air
intermingling the sickly sweet smell
of life freshly taken
with rancid decay
of death unrequited





we pretend

we pretend
because there is nothing else to do
except to sleep
like the full-bellied cat
or die
like the bee upon the window-sill
fantasy taking us beyond
deeply-rooted instincts
to dominate or brood
embellishing at least
those animal urges
with story and purpose

we are engaged
belonging to something
filling the day
with complex mythologies
peopling the world with gods to worship
to take our minds off nothing

cities rise and fall
wars are fought and then forgotten
the afternoon flows effortlessly through the open window
men sing songs
because there is nothing else to do





what we can

we are all wounded
some more than others
some walking
others flat on their backs
we grab
holding onto what we can
we do not need to be reminded of our failings
we need to forget
the loss
the neglect
the winds which blew us to this crippled shore
to write them down
roll tight the page
seal it in a bottle
and throw it in the sea
out past the breakers
and watch the current carry it away

"it's so hard being me"
she confided
there on the verge of love
her noble face stoic
not revealing the storm inside
I had already rubbed her back
and fed her lunch
learned from her that she was
when just a child
violated and betrayed
"so hard being with men now
now that sex was forced"

there are no answers
no healing balm
no love to fill a hole
torn so wide
a wound so deep
we are the suffering world
the noble path of pain
the sea which swallows all
and is not full
we meet and look into each others eyes
and recognize there inside
someone looking back
we grasp
holding onto what we can
offering each other the comfort
of our wounded embrace





x-mas

Christmas lights go up across the yards of fine, large homes, reminding me of third world poverty
Styrofoam plates hold the holiday meal putting me in mind of ozone depletion caused by their manufacture and dioxin from incinerated plastic
one day packaging will be taxed here as it is in Europe
one day news that pollution is killing us will make it forward of page 26
one day we will stop eating the drugs we feed the animals we eat
cars and medicine will be replaced by mass transit and hygiene
people will resist the commodification of their lives
one day people will realize that Lincoln's prediction was correct;
that corporations have ruined democracy
that the C I A murders for American imperialism
that it is cheaper and safer to feed the world than it is to maintain armies
Americans will realize why the rest of the world hates or laughs at us
one day we will act as if our children's future mattered
one day we will give the Black Hills back to the Sioux
one day the only tigers may be cloned and in the zoo
the oceans will flood
people will walk on water
the dead shall rise
water will turn to wine
the meek shall inherit the earth
meanwhile spread the word
be brave
have faith in the force of good and right and joy
so cover your asses as best you can
and have a happy new year

2000



you are the world

all that you search for is already yours
rivers cascading through your veins
mountains sculpted in your bones
eternity warm within your flesh

the young of the forest nurse at your breast
deer, rabbit, fox and bear
from your eyes the sun shines forth
winds issue from the hair of your head
in your heart wolves howl at the moon

the sky's starry vault and blue expanse
revolve within your skull
your bowels, veins of ore rooted deeply in the earth
lightening flashes up your nerves
heaven's gate opening there between your legs

there is no lack
all is done and done again;
in readiness
the throne waits only for the queen to sit upon it

the miracle
lost in its own simplicity
is hard to grasp
not used to such completeness
we doubt

the salts of the ocean
flow in our blood and tears
we are the sea upon which we sail
one day you will cease your restless wanderings
and come home to yourself




 

 

a summer cold

after you left
I caught a cold
the days of drizzle conspiring
and so
with my drippy nose
and the tickle in my throat
I could not have kissed you
even if you were here

I slept
but did not sleep
or only shallowly
and in snatches
throughout the night
and the naps I tried in the afternoons
waking always unrefreshed

last night
feeling better
I ventured out
to our usual spot
the band about to play
the women were there
with their smiles and their hugs
and in the first long embrace
I felt acutely
the great emptiness in my belly
and as I surrendered
to the lingering enfoldment
the ache began to melt
the hollow to be filled

now it is back
vast, interstellar space
contained in my bowels
a hunger unfilled
by the late dinner
half-eaten before me
an old friend
only half welcome

now you are back
but not
and I am somehow more alone than ever

tonight I'm going back out to dance
high
and with a little help from my friends
I will pass the night
what right have I to simplicity?
what do I know of happy endings?





as if the source of love

as if the source of love
became the source of all love
and threatened disappearance
as if it could be clung to
suspended in a drop of amber
caged in bars of all that has been
coaxed by weightless promises

the answer
unknown
the cure
something as yet untried
the caterpillar sheds its skin
to find a butterfly within

the breeze pleasantly passes
eyes closed
floating upon the ocean
relaxing breath and limb
bobbing on the waves





backing up?

this must be what giving birth is like
something large inside
wanting exit
too big for normal means
full and ready
overly so
ripe beyond staying
the bearing down
contractions
pain
tissues asked to stretch beyond their means

or like drowning
pulled down in a whirlpool
clutching at all
and everything
destined to submerge
along with you

an alchemy in the belly
bitterness and sweet
the insect
splitting open its exoskeleton
laboriously extricating
a new body and limbs
from the old shell
unfurling its untried wings
in metamorphosis

there
that first and only night
with me inside
you trembled
and asked if we could "back up"
"yes, but slowly," I replied
the dawn rising upon us
together we lingered
through morning
until after noon
there was your work
and a stay at the lake
a week passes
incommunicado

how much stands between
us and what we love
the labor and the death
the closeness and the drawing apart?
what is this distance between us?
a time to let settle
the pot we stirred
or dinner growing cold?
where are you
and why don't you call?





born that way

a great underground river of doubt
a subterranean sea
rising frequently
in lakes and pools
ponds and swamp
the sense that something's wrong
very wrong
flowing subliminally,
watery uncertainty
suspected beneath each dry footfall
flooding the landscape
frequently enough
to erode all stability

what is it
when it is everywhere?
animal anxiety?
racial memory?
spiritual phobia?

a miasmatic cloud
a stain penetrating the core
the extra thought
distracting the purpose
the nagging which tugs the heart
pulling threads
unraveling
dreams of wholeness
woven into the fiber
of my being





clouds

the clouds
backlit by the fading day
turn dark
against a sky
grown pale
contrast reversed
everything turns into its opposite
love comes with such uncertainty
she was here
but now she's gone
a breeze
blowing through the window
uncontainable
the vivid day
fading into gray





could this be love?

it's better not to believe
not to allow desire
to disturb
those quiet spaces
of solitude

birds thud into the plate glass wall
breaking wings and necks
against an invisible barrier
flights of good intention
aborted

too much anticipation
of looking forward to

the visit is delayed
poems never arrive
a door bangs in the wind
opening and closing
with no one there

it's just that this time…





deja vu

it all moves so slowly
too many minutes in the hours
too many hours in the day
the same night
over and again
the bar, the music, the smoke
you standing there
on some other shore
half-interested
in what I have to offer
words difficult
over the distance
over the noise
the same steps
and you don't want to dance

you so controlled
afraid to fall
afraid of love
unsure of who I am,
standing high on the ledge
uncertain of the waters
while I drown below

the signs worry me
what does your absence tell me?
what does your silence say?
patience grows thin
hope expires
the moments pass away
the spring will not last forever

you're off doing what with whom
I'm home writing these love-sick poems





dusk

stratospheric vapor trails
in the western sky
catch the red
of a sun
setting over some distant horizon

the sky yet clear and blue
while night settles over this town
like sediment in a bottle
the pink trail of a jet
fades
dispersing
in some unearthly wind




eternity

it is not you
and not someone else
not something I have done
or something done to me
there is no thing
nor finger to put on it
no space
no time

I am left
swimming alone in the afternoon lake
wandering among roses in the dark






the sky was clear this morning
after almost a week of clouds
not just the distant blue
but the air close to the earth
the atmosphere hovering around houses
hanging between trees,
it might have been the sun
the contrast of light and shadows
showing leaves and roofs
and even the distant mountain
more distinctly
everything in greater definition

by noon the clouds had returned
and a soft blurriness with them
a more forgiving vision
enveloping the world



glimpses

at times it becomes overwhelmingly clear
a moment standing on its own
untrammeled
a perfect celebration
of all that it is
internally coherent
without reference
implying nothing beyond itself
unable to be carried forward
or cast back
the light configured
just so
just now
complete unto itself
and nothing more
the sunset fading into dusk
big birds flying across the sky
alone
alone and free





humane society

before the turnpike
down the back road
next door to the mental hospital
they wait
dogs penned up
cats behind glass
cages of rabbits
looking for a home

reasons for surrender
printed neatly on pink paper
hanging there for all to read
below names
that no one calls anymore

"too many cats"
"doesn't get along well with other dogs"
"moved to an apartment where pets are not allowed"

she takes me there
to this
her place of pilgrimage
of compassionate visitation
while I am driving her home
dispensing our affection
as best we can
playing with cats and kittens
through the plexiglass
scratching snouts and muzzles
letting wet noses nuzzle our fingers
through the bars of doors we are not allowed to open

she is a friend to them
yipping and woofing
exciting puppies and dogs
inviting them to play
as best they can in their confines
offering her face to their pink tongues
lifting the animal spirits of those
who cannot read or understand
the reasons for their surrender
wanting only a field to in which to romp
a home to call their own
barking their protest
at our leaving
sad to see us go
without them
out into a summer afternoon
driving again
light drizzle wetting the day
down along the back roads
up Fox Hill
where we park
and nuzzle our goodbyes
and as she disappears into the house
and as I drive away
all I can feel
is sad to see her go
and these stray cat blues





is this the beginning?
why then does it seem the end?
will you be my lover?
are you going to be my friend?


unforgivable acts
are forgiven
or
what's worse
forgotten



low tide

I thought it would last forever
or rather
I didn't think about it
only felt
immersing myself
freshly each time
swaying
gyrating with the rhythms
swept by waves
innocent of tides
unreckoned

but now
waters ebbing
the keel comes to rest
the sea retreats
eternity grounds upon the sands of time
buoyant pleasures receding
leaving the shore
too firm beneath my stranded feet
now marooned
close by the ocean's roar





mandate

we all need some relief
a chance to get high
above the usual concerns
floating in some airy realm
like clouds
or birds
or celestial bodies

we all need a drink
thirsty house-plants that we are
to be left outside in the rain
or at least,
phototropic leaves turning towards the window,
a visit from the watering-can

we need a break
a chance to make a mistake
and be forgiven
by others
and ourselves
to recognize
behind whatever native talents
with which we have been endowed
beyond whatever privilege
conveyed by the accident of our birth
that we are in fact
quite small
and flawed

Wednesday nights I go out dancing
a great blues band
plays a club
a short way across town
I'm already a regular
handshakes and hugs when I walk in the door
there on the dance floor I am swept away
the molecules of my body
resonating with the rhythms
there I am frequently successful in forgetting my self
closing my eyes
and ceasing to be
just the music
and the molecules

we need
most of all
to change our focus
to let go of who we think we are
and what we think of who we are
and what we think of that
to get past ourselves
by any and all means





on the town

we came to the bar together
a new place
up the road from your parents' house
a shot in the dark
last night
clean and local
lots of TVs
a few arcade games
a couple pool tables
a band
it turned out
you knew
(the bass and drums recently joined
everyone still learning to play together)

your girlfriends found us
or you
dancing in the entryway
and swept you off to the rear
with a wave in my direction
leaving me swaying solo on the floor
eyes closed
until a touch on my shoulder
and a woman asking if she could join me for a dance

returning from the parking lot
and the warm spring night
smoking
on break with the band
I found you
engaged with the girls at the bar,
after a couple of drinks
we went up front
but soon you were back with them

up front
Julie wanted to flirt
and the guitar was good
and when I went back to check
you were all now seated at a table,
between the songs I asked how you had met
and one of them answered somewhat sheepishly
"it was with your ex, Matthew
back then it was always you and Matthew"
and I thought, "Right
there's my answer"
and went back up front
with Julie, the billiards and the band

and after a while you all came up front
and you asked half-heartedly
if I wanted to go downtown
and I said with fatal magnanimity
why don't you just go on with the girls
and you said
would that be okay?
and of course it was okay
seeing as how it was what you wanted to do
and how it wouldn't make much difference to me
whether you were in the back of the bar
or across town anyway
and you double checked
as I walked you out
and I was happy you had found your friends
and there between the motorcycles
you gave me the best hug yet
really holding me
inside and out
because you knew I wanted you to go have a good time
because you knew Julie was back inside
and that you had been neglecting me.
there in that embrace
I whispered for both of us
"That's something to hold onto"
and that one moment was more
than I had expected out of the whole night

inside
the band was almost finished
and after you
the flirting was trite
so I drove home
content
and ate the dinner I had brought for you
and drank the tequila
and left the mango alone

what do I know about love?





sobriety

it's all ridiculous
an absurdity
a fairy tale
a wish upon a star
that the obstacles would be overcome
that the cool reserve might melt into a warm embrace
that somehow
I could get there
from here





stranded

your car was stolen
out of the parking lot
where you work
and so
you have become dependent on others for rides

one week ago it was me
(the night sweetly fading into dawn)
now I sit in this twilight
no longer expecting that you might call
wondering who's picking you up tonight?




tainted love

it's a visceral reaction
here in the belly
somewhere between
a turning of the stomach
and a cramp
each time I receive her sympathy

she would swaddled me away
in some padded room
safe from every extreme

and her tone
there on my answering machine
her words overladen
pregnant
as though she were considering some tragedy
recently befallen me
or about to
abject pity
as though she were my confidant
in some tremendous misfortune

it's an aversion
to her presumption of intimacy
that she understands
that we are kindred
in craving the numbing tranquility
she wishes for me
that I am defeated
and in need of a place to lick my wounds

she would reduce me to an invalid
with her concern
cripple me
with her caresses
but I shake of her unwanted gift
like a mighty man
rousing himself from a stupor
she does not know me
but only her own imaginings
like a mirror
I cast them back to her
and am free
of her tainted love





the anatomy of pain

it catches the breath
up high in the belly
a vacuum
in the pit of the stomach
between the lungs
below the heart
drawing everything in
an emptiness undiminished
by all that it consumes

there in that closest place
an egg forever hatching
a beak and talon tearing at the liver
a weight on the kidneys
and the soul

it is the center of everything
from which all arises
to which all returns
the mother devouring her young
the snake swallowing its tail

faceless among its guises
shapeless amidst its forms
nameless despite all that it is called

the sacrifices have been offered
the entrails consulted
the rites enacted
the sacred songs all sung
and still the god remains unappeased

the diaphragm freezes
the heart misses a beat







the first day

we drove to the edge of town
parking where the road ended
got out
and took the trail into the woods
down the hill
past the old quarry
and out into the meadows leading to the river
the day was warm
almost hot
in the strong, spring sun
purple wildflowers following us on our way
out onto the wide plain
where the river still floods
keeping it out of reach
of the creeping suburban sprawl
out where early settlers made a go off it
their foundation stones, tools and graves
buried now beneath river sediment and grass
out where troops were bivouacked
during the last great war
out where lovers had their trysts
under the pale moon
there
where the field had grown up into a wall of bushes
and the trail ran down steeply into a ravine
in a little clearing
we rested
you on your back
your eyes closed in the soft, tall grass
me sitting beside you
my hands hovering above you
following the axis of your body
up from the bottom
not touching
over belly, solar plexus, heart and throat
tracing the contours of your face
with the shadow of my finger
and when I got to your crown
your body flexed
legs rising
knees bending
and you laughed a delighted laugh
as though you could feel the hand
suspended six inches above your vertex

it was there
where nature triumphs over things human
and the past is all but forgotten
there
where the river was close
but yet unseen
where all was well
beneath an unhurried, cloudless sky
there and then
that I first felt
the love
I love for you





the most you can hope for

the box
too small
needs to be thought
outside of

it must be something different
undiscovered
or unexplored
not this
not this
something as yet unimagined

not just more of the same
or variations on the theme
but a new way of counting
a new integer

how we cry
when that useless toy
is taken away
how scared when we turn
and realize
no one is holding on
how frightened to be alone
in the dark

all your good intentions
just get in the way

you get to the point
where you stop feeling misunderstood
and start to feel
that you're the one
misunderstanding

knowing that you don't know
is the most you can hope for






ubiquity

it can't be helped
it's all around
microwave radiation
electro-magnetically penetrating
the blood running through our veins
the hallowed depths of our DNA
a noxious vapor
choking the throat
filling the head
penetrating the skull
at the root of the nose
an atmospheric pressure
bearing down on mind and body
causing joints to ache
adding insufferably
to the weight of being
a silent prejudice
dominating the pattern of thought
corrupting all that is built upon it
a contagion
like cholera in days gone by
drunk with the water
or the pox
breathed in with the air
no pocketful-of-posey to ward off the plague
like the debility of advanced age
the error of judgment
caught
after the horse is already out of the barn
the mistakes people need to make for themselves
nothing to be done





waiting

that the moon grows from empty to full
that half of July's sunny days
and warm summer nights
pass
without you





wet dreams

good and bad
moods descend
like rain falling from the sky
spilling off roofs
washing over earth
watering the trees and flowers
of a newborn spring.
fantasies like clouds
enshroud the nearby hills
blurring vision with heavenly wisps
and somber presences.

last week
love filled the air
last night
frustration reigned supreme
not one
without the other
and none truly ours.

tentatively leaves unfold
immature, baby-green
soon the chlorophyll will darken
the garden will ripen
in summer's lush imagination
rivulets join into streams
then into rivers
and unto the sea
flow and currents ever more compelling
the drama transpires
great cycles of nature
brought to life
by late April's
gentle rain



perfection

would we know it if we saw it?
would we taste it in our mouth?
what can such incomplete beings
know of completion?
certainly it is not what
or who or how
you thought it should be
newness cannot be anticipated



wrongly rubbed

I'm trying to put my finger on it

was it your telling the ladies that I was "full of shit"?
an unkind joke
humor of a cynical sort
not lost on me
a counterpoint to the grandiosity
with which I was regaling them,
yours the only laugh

was it your telling them
that I was promoting
a "Cult of Dave"?
funnier this time
flattering in a twisted way
but still no laughs
only their non-comprehending stares

was it your offering me your friend
suggesting her as a partner
instead of yourself
on the animated ride to bring her home
or the words you then whispered her
silencing her
for the rest of the trip?

is it the laggard realization
that the swoon
you admit to having "already swooned"
was not a swoon for me

or that, having offered my heart,
you replied
that what you really needed
was money?

am I just another guy buying you drinks?
another fool
enraptured by your charms
who thinks he might have a chance?

are you too comfortable saying "no"?
and have I been too easy?





adjustments and reflections

you told me it was an "adjustment"
your disappearance
after the first time we made love
a day of love
a week away
and then
the quiet and coldness
after your return

you told me when you came by to apologize
for some nastiness on the phone
showing up at my front door
sweaty from some car trouble
on a hot summer day
and showered
and, wearing my boxers and tee shirt,
wrapped your legs around me
and the magic and love was with us that afternoon
sharing the bicycle, the rose garden, the Japanese restaurant
and each other through the night

you told me the next morning
that second time
nested in my bed
floating on an ocean of bliss
between the waves of passion
when I asked you about your weeks of distance
when I mentioned that I was afraid you would disappear again
abandoning me on some desert isle
bereft of such ecstasy
you told me your absence had been an "adjustment"
"one needs to make an adjustment to something as wonderful as you"
you smiled
then you held me to your naked bosom
took pleasure such as you had never known before
and disappeared

we treat others like we treat ourselves
we treat ourselves like we were treated
you pull away
won't let me take your hand
lie next to you or hug you
you don't return my calls
and when I catch you in at noon
you tell me you were napping and want to go back to sleep
I see you by accident
or by dropping in where I know you'll be
to a friend's house in the woods
to your awkward surprise.
your email tells me
"I'm sure that you already know that I care about you a great deal"
and that you are "reflecting"

I love when we are united,
your distance overwhelms me
it is impossible to ignore your lack of enthusiasm
your refusal to share
your withdrawal
floating in a boat you will not use the oar
or you paddle away from my shore
all I ever wanted
all I ever needed
here and gone
unavailable
I believe in our love
the magic and the healing
but you must believe in it too
so much that's good and true is also impossible.
you wrote
"Plant a seed and it sometimes grows"
but it needs some water and care

you told me
once sitting on your couch
that I felt stronger about our relationship than did you
our coupling awakened a great love
(too strong it seems for you)
the world is a different place for me
a new light illumines
a new voice issues forth in song
a great love to which I must be true
which I want to be with you
and in this I may be wrong

I can, as you once ordered,
back off
I can be less concerned with your well being
to leave you, as it seems you want to be,
alone
I can accept the blessing when it comes
and not anticipate your coming
I am here
I am here for you
(you know that)
where are you?

I believe in fairy tales
in princesses waking from their spells
in the magic of a kiss…
I can be such a fool






almost spring

it's snowing
for two days now
but it doesn't matter
spring has already shown itself,
enthusiastic flurries
alternating with fat lazy flakes
drifting inconsequentially
half-hearted and late
like soldiers who know
that their cause is lost.
the frosting
accumulated last night
by midmorning
is mostly gone

half way through March
the sun journeying its longer way home
has already warmed the air and ground
stirring sap in the roots of great trees

it is snowing
the last wave
of winter's ebbing tide
disappearing on contact
like an ocean wave percolating into the sand,
the formidable season
when such events needed to be reckoned with
already fading into memory

a souvenir purchased just before departing,
a white-haired old man
who has lived into another age

it is snowing now
but it doesn't matter





another lost angel

it is safer to be misunderstood
than to risk the pain of intimacy
to dumbly repeat
in a thousand crippled ways
the horror that was
than to creatively inquire
to suffer the wound's slow putrid ooze
than to boldly excise the necrotic flesh

it is about disappointing and being disappointed
faces of abandonment
my fault is seeing to clearly
understanding to well
and for this I am disqualified

behind the clouds the sun is setting
leaves not fully green
even in the shadows of this cool, wet, spring day,
Sabbath approaches
somewhere she runs
beside those who cannot even pretend to love her
outside, from puddles on my neighbor's roof
two cardinals sip rain
bright red the male flies toward my window
and then away
imparting
in a flurry of crimson wings
the hope I need to carry on





beautiful dreamer

you fall in and out of love with me
like a sleeper on the edge of sleep
losing and revisiting a dream

hush
be still
there is nothing in the garish day
to match the opium of my kiss

waking is only the first disappointment
the false dawn
the thousand necessities of living
untrue promises and demands

better to rest and dream with me
your head upon the pillow
than face the unkind light
better the touch of angels' wings
than the stones and dust of earth

lie undisturbed
and weave with me
from sleepy strands
a world beyond compare
cradling heaven in our embrace

the bed is warm
the covers deep
let all resolve in dream and sleep
here
stay in love with me



bittersweet

it almost hurts
knowing how sweet it could be
knowing the simple delight
uncomplicated
like a child

I leave messages
but she does not return the call
I send emails
but she doesn't check her computer
the cycles must all coincide
the moon
school and work
and her own strange, inner tides

mine is a love that cannot find root
an airborne life
dropping briefly to drink from her enchanted pool
whisked away again upon the breeze
skywardly dreaming of the dark, rank earth

she might be some wild thing
refusing home and hearth
an animal that pines inside four walls
a plant that will not flower under roof
a stone whose glistening fades
when taken from the stream

I might be a fool
to try to catch it in a bottle
searching for the formula
that turns the lead to gold
to think I might prolong the dream
by pulling the covers over my head

somewhere it is early Sunday afternoon
and brightly-colored leaves
are falling
in autumn's light rain





letting go

it's a miracle every time
the Jews crossing the Red Sea
the sun standing still in the sky
it's like I always knew it should be
but never dared imagine

two hours after saying no
you call back to say yes
and can you bring some schoolwork
having two tests to study for

soon there you are
books spread out on my kitchen table
my back to you
as I wash dishes
warm dinner
and try to forget about seducing you

then after nibbling the food
and admiring my bottom
you are ready
gentle, slow and free
without my effort or contrivance
you come to me

the less forward I am
the bolder you become
surrender
assuring victory
trees now bare
will soon be covered in leaves
but now we stand
naked before you





Chanukah party

she misses the party
sweet potato kugel and all
drops out of touch for weeks at a time
forgets about the invitation
and then calls on the phone upstairs
while we're all downstairs at the table
"I'm in the neighborhood, do you want to get together? Give me a call."
candles, kids
family, friends
presents and deserts
I had a great time
and she would have too

that's the way it goes with us
the story of our affair
the non-story
of our non-affair
only so much hope you can hold out
so many near-misses love can sustain

I could have called
after she blew off our last date
to remind her about the Chanukah party
(a date which she made)
but it's hard to keep pedaling while she's dragging her feet

it hurts
because we've tasted how easy it can be together
and I need some more
because her current scenario is unsustainable
(working two jobs
neither of which suit her
hair going gray at twenty-eight)
because her alternatives are poor
and because her adolescent way
her childish certainty
of a happily-ever-after outcome
is flirting with adult disaster

it's a case of my good eye
and her incapacity to envision;
my fantasy and her lack of it
a failure of imagination
on both our parts

I learned a long time ago
that being right doesn't count for much
that you can lead a horse to water
but you can't stop it from bashing its brains out on the rocks
that love is not enough
that the devil will have his due
that being able to see the future is as much a curse
as it is a blessing

what I need to learn now is to stop trying
to rein in my faith in happy outcomes

after the party I return her phone call
but her signal is all broken up
and I'm up later than I want to be
writing this poem to myself,
par for the course






Chanukah

there was no reason to believe
no justification for faith
the desecration seemingly complete
the darkness overwhelming
but then the faithful did arise
the believers did wage war
Matisyahu and his sons
and the stubborn Jews who followed them
then G-d delivered
the many into the hands of the few
the mighty into the hands of the weak
the wicked into the hands of the righteous
and victoriously they cleansed the Temple
redeemed they purified G-d's Sanctuary
finding there
in some dark corner overlooked by the blasphemous Greeks
a jar of oil inviolate
and lit the sacred candelabra with it
(although again there was no logic)
and again G-d miraculously intervened
to make that one day's worth of oil last the eight
it took to make
the new oil ready

there is an advantage to light which shines in darkness
a brightness lacked by a candle in the day
a greater illumination
there is an advantage to stubborn belief
to faith transcending understanding
to battle
and to inauguration

far from confident
I light the lamp
with my small jar of oil
and wonder
will it last
until I can press more?



adulteries

faithless woman
with your belly full of delicacies
you rise from your husband's brightly lit table
and run off into the night
forgetting your people
you parade your treasures among strangers
exchanging gold for that which is of no value
reveling in the tavern
sweet words of truth are trampled beneath boisterous feet
made bold by strong drink
your dances are for others
while your husband waits inside his walls
forsaken
staring out into the night
you turn from purity towards corruption
with a rebellious heart
from the knowledge of G-d
towards that which has no power to save
you stumble amidst sinners
mistaking the snares of folly for freedom
light-heartedness for good
much-attached to your drunkenness
you recklessly squander great wealth
with you there is no discernment
wisdom cannot find a place in your bosom
you despise good counsel
disloyal woman
shame will be your reward
in the morning
when you wake far from home
sick from your adulteries





fancy's flight

colorful visions of you
like leaves
blown by autumn's wind
brightly off the tree





five below

when it snows I think of you
a result no doubt
of venturing out
in two recent storms
to visit

tonight it is wintry again
clear and very cold
and it seems I will see you
compelled as we are
to conduct our relationship
in extremes of meteorology
cold fronts hurtling around us

the last time I managed to get you alone
the skies and roads
were full of snow
and you of fear
afraid of losing
of indiscretions and liberties
errors of judgment
taking us to task
for the past
relationship falling victim
to familial anxieties

I am guilty
let me concede that
here to you now
of many things
but my capacity for self doubt
compensates well
for my
at times reckless
self confidence
and I have always been
quite amenable
to remediation

no one can blame you for wondering
but the proposition isn't as risky
as you might think
put your money down
when the odds are with you
"Papa wants a new pair of shoes"
and I'm feeling like your sure thing
the man of your dreams
if you'd let me

I love you
because you love the words
enough to read them over,
because you
not only get the joke
but sometimes
are it
because of your wild red hair
the thoughts coming out of your mouth
your boys
and the way you pirouette
even in the kitchen.

you were supposed to call an hour ago
encores no doubt delaying you
at that prior engagement.
waiting for you
and the tea we will share
I have at least this poem
to keep me company
pregnant lines
presenting themselves
hatchlings
lovingly added to the brood



imposes

how the world imposes
the red-headed man you knew from high school
with his autistic affect
who would have kept you talking
(all night?)
if I hadn't drawn you away to the place I was saving at the table
then when you were returning from washing your hands
the child who left you playing with his toy
standing there among the bustle of people
in the middle of the banquet
forgetting that I was waiting for you to break bread
and while we are apart
your friends
your family
your schooling
your myriad allegiances
your father's inconsistency
your ex-boyfriend
resurfacing like a bloated corpse
there in your embrace

I must try very hard not to feel abandoned
(you are not my mother
I am no longer a child)
or to feel it, but apart from you
not to take your neglect personally
the calls you do not return
the promised sunny afternoons
where you are unavailable

if you were happy, I would not be so insistent



constancy

is it not true
that all the loves I loved were you
that somewhere deep inside their soul
I glimpsed a part of which you're whole
and wanting so much to believe
allowed myself to be deceived

'til I awoke
cut by the shards of dreams which broke
to mourn my heart's too eager crimes
to say goodbye one thousand times
to watch your vision fade away
there in the too clear light of day?

but did I not
preserve in my most sacred spot,
where loss and failure can't assail
nor disappointment spread its veil,
the treasure left unto my keeping
love's flower watered by my weeping?

please do not fear
my feelings are the most sincere
like steel that's forged within the fire
so tempered is my heart's desire
the blade that's pounded by the sledge
is bound to hold the sharpest edge

with salty breath
the sea spits out those marked for death
tempestuous waves have washed aground
the capsized crew now nearly drowned
my storm-tossed heart does love you more
than shipwrecked sailors love the shore


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Free Verse 4

 

gratification

it was a substitute
one thing for another
an approximation of desire
what could be had
a pair of shoes that don't quite fit
an apple instead of an orange

things had been going badly for each of them
parallel downward spirals
courts, divorce and death
two snakes descending the caduceus
frustrated in the expectation of
some glorious resurrection
disappointment following disappointment
an unrepentant double helix

pleasure missing
like a name that can't be recalled
unencumbered delight
the ecstasy of abandon
blown out to sea
happiness tethered to a schedule
life measured and predicted
responsibilities piling up
like dirty dishes in the sink

both were wary
drowning
casting about among wreckage
grasping at straws
at counterfeits
usurpers come upon an empty throne
pretty faces all
imitations of something only yet imagined
wary already of not finding
but also of finding
of finding and not knowing
the long-awaited promise
passing in the night
unrecognized
by eyes untrained for the dawn

the drug had been his lover
embracing him when no one else would
buoying his heart in that dark sea
then leaving him
again alone
weighed down by black eternity

but with her he felt an unaccustomed lightness
in her embrace
a high unlike the others
his stupid heart there next to hers
grew clear
and pledged itself to love sincere

for some reason
she finally gave him the chance
she never would before,
maybe it was pity after his father's death
maybe it was knowing that she didn't know anymore
maybe it was a simple animal need
now they were lying
quietly together on her couch
her liking the way he touched her
restraining herself
lest the waves swelling between them
sweep her away

the brownies she made when he came over
sit untasted on the counter
after a few kisses
the chocolate's not so sweet




love's affliction

"He whom the L-rd loves, He chastises." Talmud

G-d keeps you from me
because He knows that given the chance
I would love you too much
that the pleasures we would share
would be too exquisite
and that I would perish among them
He knows that if you were mine
I would come to worship you
that you would be for me a sacred shrine
a Holy of Holies
wherein I would sacrifice myself
upon your altar

already the angels murmur jealously against us
now when
like a bird upon my window sill
you linger
only for a moment
and fly away

G-d keeps you from me
because He wants to keep heaven in heaven
because such bliss does not belong here on Earth
because my longing is not yet perfect
nor is my suffering complete





lunatic

the days I count
turn into weeks
the weeks into a month
then two
and then I stop counting

the poems I email
bring no response
her answering machine is broken
when finally she does pick up the phone
she is friendly
but distracted
and brief

then she appears
like the moon through parting clouds
full of night's mysteries
miraculously in my bed
bringing in her touch
all that has been missing
since before the beginning
striking me with her unearthly fire
sweeping me away in her lunar tide
and for a while we linger
ridiculously complete
overwhelmingly loved
enjoying that impossible moment

then
the aperture already narrowing overhead
the cloudy window closing
she, still smiling
gathers her wonders
and drives away
closing the door to heaven behind her

the moon's radiance
still visible
through the now complete overcast
glows faintly
then disappears

and I am left
to count the days
and watch the night skies
awaiting another revelation





midwinter

I am left
to pet only the cat
to snuggle just with the covers
to lick my lips
and laugh to myself
out loud

to kiss but holy books
to dance alone
and run my fingers through my hair
scratching my own back
as best I can

once
in my arms
you were
the object of these affections
now there is only imagination
footprints
disappearing in the snow





migration

you don't respond
but I keep writing
leaving these poems in the box by your door
orphaned epistles
left on your front steps
quietly
without a knock
or a doorbell's imposition
waiting
silent as the snow

I imagine you
holding this page in your delicate hands
your busy world
swirling around
suspended for the instant it takes to read the words
then folding it
and putting it someplace
out of the children's reach
looking at it again perhaps
when the long day is over

I am, I'm afraid,
a source of worry
one more uncertainty
in your already too uncertain life
calm yourself
soon enough they will stop appearing
these homeless affections at your door
cold straggling birds
taking to the sky
heading south





million dollar smile

it couldn't have lasted more than a second
but it had all the heat of a February thaw
melting winter's snow
illuminating the darkness like a hundred thousand watts
a bolt of lightning
flashing just for an instant

last night
we arrived at synagogue at the same time
me giving you the distance modesty demands
despite my curiosity
looking but not staring
as you walked across the parking lot
to where the other women stood
your black hat pulled down against the slushy cold
your dancer's bearing
then, as I held the door for you
you turned your head
and gave me the prettiest smile I've seen
since I don't know when
a solar flare
obliterating the glacial night

I don't know where you keep it
but it's nice to be there
when you let it out



tended

I thought we were making progress
when
across the table
you voiced your disbelief
that she
had let a man like me
go

I am convinced that you love me
it's there
in what's spoken
and in the sentences not needing to be finished
a rare compatibility
of mind and spirit and flesh
assures me
in small ways and in large

but your heart is a fickle thing
a bird come in through an open window
fluttering about the room
confused by the limits of human space
craving the open sky

are you old enough to put away your toys?
to leave aside those adolescent joys?
to shed that caterpillar skin
and find a butterfly within?

I know that I love you
what you are
and what you can be
the depth and breadth of our sharing
the magic when we are together

but love is a fragile thing
a garden that must be tended
from early spring
until summer has ended



saturday morning

also it is nice
to come down from the heights
from the peaks and our soarings among them
to wake in bed
and lifting my head
to find you lying there beside me

the feel of your hand taking mine
in the soft, morning light
while I'm trying to fall back asleep
is much sweeter than the slumber which eludes me

to rise and dress
and meet you at the breakfast table
sealing a night of tantric bliss
with a milky kiss

it is good
to see you also
in a more ordinary way
free of the evening's intoxication
to see you down on level earth
still with the stars in your eyes





self-appointed joy

answers without questions
songs without tunes
the birds have quit the sky
there is just the lightest dusting of snow
and even that is melting off
staring through the naked trees
one-eyed among the blind
imagination leads me on
to all that never was
and what can't ever be
searching for the phrase

he does not cry
lying in the hospital bed
robbed of his right side
holes in his mind
he taught me inadvertently
(and does so yet)
and now that he cannot resist
accepts the caresses I bestow on his wasted form
holes in my heart
stuffed with poems
a father recreated in verse

she does not call

busy with the holidays
the countless friends
who do not understand her half as well as I
what place is there for G-d and love
for the last days of freedom?
rows of houses
cars in line
the common good
the daily grind
other words not sung so sweet
poems left at her door

to be content
with ordinary ways
the schedule of days
life's gettings up and goings forth
the incidental pleasures
the world of weight and measure
what good is there in asking more
in searching for that self-appointed joy
in writing poems that no one reads
songs that no one sings?





the Ari

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria
the Ari
who revealed himself
as the greatest kabbalist of all time
when he lived in Safed
in northern Israel
some 400 plus years ago
was repeatedly petitioned
by a resident of Safed
who wanted to be his student
and repeatedly he refused
until one Friday
when he agreed
telling the man
to wait that afternoon
by the road where he and his students would pass
on their way to study
in preparation for the Sabbath.

excitedly
the man readied himself for the Sabbath
positioning himself early
by the side of the road
immersing himself in his own study while he waited
but as the eagerly expected moment drew near
he was overcome by sleep
and missed the Ari
who on returning following his studies
along the same road
on his way to shul
told his students to wake the man up
because the hour for prayer had arrived

you want what I have
as much as I want to give it to you
it is the key
to the lock on your door
but when I knock
you are asleep
dreaming,
I suppose,
of freedom





density

the walls close in
the air becomes dense
a thickness inhibiting movement and thought
while night itself
spread wide outside the window
is only empty and dark

there is nothing to do
nothing that could be done
the phone does not ring
there is no power of speech
the cat eyes the scene warily

prayer becomes ineffective



thunderstorm

you come like a cloudburst
pouring around and over me
heavy and wet
blankets of water
erupting from your dark heaven
thunder rolling
lightening flashing between us
on and on you flood me
one crescendo surpassing another
buckets of rain
rivers, oceans of bliss
spill from the unimaginable heart of the storm
and you borne aloft
riding transfixed upon the tempest
swirling wild and free
upon the gusting wind

then
after an eternity
it is over
the sky exhausts its passion
clouds part
then
the still-shy sun
casts its rainbow eye
streams gush
ponds and lakes brim
but the earth could not drink fast enough
and the ground still thirsts for more




turtle blues

it's hard
(knowing how possible it is)
to live without you
knowing you are just
fifteen minutes away
to stay here alone

the simple force of love
I hoped
would bring you back to me
I now believe
is keeping you away

I'm glad you think of me
when you want to let out
the softness inside your shell
the vulnerability retracted
I'm glad
I make you want to expose yourself
I love you as you are
on those occasions
when you let yourself be loved

but foolishly
I want you to do something for me
that you don't even do for yourself

hopelessly
I want
a regularity from you
who takes such refuge in
irregularity

it's hard
knowing how impossible it is



maybe

maybe I could not love you forever
maybe your voice will cease to entrance me
its soft and sharp
its lilt and weight
maybe in time the spell will expire
and I will stop this fascination with
its innocent curiosity and swift conviction
the depth of its laughter
its wry cynical turnings
someday perhaps
your insights will cease to stimulate me
striking my mind like lightening creating new life in some primeval ocean
I will stop being tantalized by your mystery
wondering what came before or what is yet to be revealed
maybe the poems will stop flowing when I just think of you

maybe I would grow weary of the garden of your body
its seeds and fruit
the seasons and the ever-richening earth

maybe I would grow tired of the many beauties of your face
the transformations of your visage
the ease with which your soul shows across your features
your moods made flesh

the intricate nuances of your voice will cease to enchant me
the floods of feeling will dry up
I will stop feeling that you are I and I am you
you are my dreams made flesh

I will have had enough of the comfort I feel beside you
the joy just knowing that you exist
maybe I would not feel so at home in your ideas
such fellowship with your manners

maybe the mountains will crumble
maybe the sea will dry
maybe the sun will cease to shine
maybe the moon will fall from the sky



meanings

the humor and cynicism which overlie your words
the curiosity and conviction which wrap themselves around your meanings



need to believe

will it be sustained
take root
flower and fruit
and taste
will our hopes have been misplaced

the dream is at odds with reality
this happily ever after
but I need to believe

maybe you are not up to it
to be the other half of my whole



you can't get there from here

which meant,
when you asked the farmer for directions
up there in Maine,
that the road was really just a cow-path
and not a fit route to your destination

but on you go
ignoring the sober, agrarian appraisal
banging up the undercarriage
tires spinning
car sliding sideways in the mud
stuck in a rut

you are unsuspecting
like the supermarket's beautiful cashier girl
wasting her hours
handling other people's money and food
stupidly confident in her youth

and I would rescue you
from the weight of days
slowly bearing down
but you are unconvinced that you need rescuing
happy in your adolescent ways
still obsessed at thirty
by what your parents did or didn't do for you
blinded to the future by the past

I had already let go
not hearing from you for months
when you called suggesting dinner
enticing me with your delicious possibilities
but it's another cow-path
that we're on
ruts, mud and spinning tires
and I know
it only gets worse up ahead
and 'though I hate to leave you stranded
you will not turn around

please forgive me my retreat
it's just that I've realized
we can't get there from here





coda

you owe me nothing
and that's what I get
the shadow you keep
hidden in your heart

I wanted to be with you
but there was no time
consumed as you are
by something missed as a child

my phone calls are not returned
my poems go unanswered
the crumbs you left outside your door
are eaten
or covered by freshly fallen snow
the birds have all flown off

your lady friends all smile and laugh
and give me their babies to hold
but when you come to dinner
I am not invited
(still I try to get Noah to tuck in his shirt against the cold)

the last time we spoke
you were concerned
with wallboard and insurance policies
sounding ridiculous even to yourself
projecting emotional insecurity out onto my building

and I would leave you
alone with your sons
your interminable responsibilities
leaving you no time
to consider the passing months and years
mothering obscuring the loss of your youth
leave you to find
the predictability you imagine you want.
I should not display myself before your indifference

yesterday in synagogue
it hurt too much to look at you
your "Good Shabbos" as you walked by startled me
you disappearing before I looked up from my plate
then coming upon me as I was making my get-away
I answered your inquiry
as to my well-being
as if you cared
convinced of the futility
even before we were interrupted
"we'll talk later," you apologized
and for a while I believed that courtesy

now I believe I should take a hint
and leave you alone
as you have already left me
should follow you in dissembling that intimacy
that contact made
some few winter nights
in a year already past

you told me then
you didn't want to break my heart
but, my dear
that's what hearts do best





your GPA

I'm good for your grade point average
my cracked, but reliable honesty
is good at making complexity plain
I'm the study partner of your dreams
but it seems
you want
neither partner nor dreams

you are some rare bug
an insect living underground for years
who emerges metamorphosized
one long summer day
taking to the sky
on new-found wings
gloriously
but only for that afternoon
and I am cursed to have seen you fly
and to want to see again

there is something wonderful about your impossibility
a problem that refuses to be solved
a preciousness too dear for this world
the grain of sand that yields the pearl
the pressure that forms the diamond

you are across town practicing trigonometry
involved in lessons of biology
or earning your living
disinclined
to write me into your equation
to entwine our biologies into a new living

I am bored with the independence that so attracts you
dreaming in November
of recess
and long summer days



 

 

archeology

that something should be redeemed
a treasure
stubbornly buried in the earth
a primal joy
covered by dust;
that life has been arranged
for me to stare out this window
at half past noon
to feel the breeze
and write these lines
seems not enough
each word, a shovel-full of soil tossed away
deepening the hole;
that I am free to speculate
on purpose and G-d
feels now a burdensome liberty
a jazzman's improvisation
requiring some form
rocks pried and hefted out of the way;
something has been forgotten
entombed by the detritus of time,
the mound giving no clue
to what if aught
is locked beneath,
bones and shards leading on
my fruitless excavation

a grave in which to lie down?
the gate of some lost city?





aria

Sibelius' seventh on the radio
Emmy on her pillow
outside my window
the leaves are off the trees
revealing an extended horizon
in the distance the sky is baby blue
overhead a perfect azure
elephantine clouds drift slowly by
notations of some celestial song

yesterday I dug a trench in my back yard
to help the water down the hill
this morning
surveying my work
I noticed
among the soil and stones which the shovel turned up
a glass marble
a cloudy-green pearl
buried how many decades?

you are the first snowfall
yielding to the warmth of autumn's earth
you are the yellow leaves
piled high
about to take flight
you are the distant horizon
the humus of the newly-furrowed soil
the aria of the clouds





August's resolution

don't let anything get in the way
the pain in the hand
grasping the pen
the thousand details of living
the distance between two hearts
between what is and what is coming to be

rising late from an afternoon nap
on a cloudy Sunday in August
the mind is particularly calm
rain on the pavement
rain on the lawn





being right doesn't count for much

even without the childish opposition
going left because I say right
petty assertions of self
rebelliousness like Pharaoh's,
"I am the River and I made myself"
and then blaming me for the consequence,
even so I would grow weary of explaining

even without the misplaced certainty
the pride in knowing what you know
and giving no sign of surrender
without your extraneous revelations
and questions which interrupt the learning
I would come to resent having to finish my sentences

even if you were compelled by the necessity of your circumstance
and unenamored of your independence
were I not subject to the anger you reserve for intimates
and had access to your hidden love
still it would not be enough

tonight the moon has already set
stars twinkling in the brutal cold of January's night
this evening
unclouded by the imagination of how things could be
I saw how they are

I have made myself too cheap
no wonder you disrespect me





brushstrokes

I am jealous of your simple life
no larcenous shadow trailing
no threat of further prosecution
no bitter mother to console
no worries about the kids
no building program in Vermont
no lumber to be milled
no pasture to be cleared

this cloudy afternoon
(one day after my father would have turned eighty-seven)
the beech tree's limbs
just beginning to leaf
appear like some primitive calligraphy
against the rice paper sky
an ancient, undecipherable tongue

no conflict in the synagogue
no rivalrous siblings
no stone to carve for the grave
there are no more considerations
of forward and reverse
the cat on my lap
wants nothing more than her own heat
reflecting up with my own
and my hand to stroke her back.
these are the fruits of my labor
the reward of my inquiry
no one said it was going to be pretty





coronation

after a long time wondering why you won't
last night I finally realized that you can't
a long time wondering what more needs to be added
to the perfection we manage on those irregular occasions
when you come to me
what is needed to make it last
to keep you from leaving
how it is that you turn away
from the fullness to the lack
choosing the past over all that is and could be

maybe it was your brother's recent institutionalization
putting you more in touch with your own imbalance
maybe I just got smart
but last night I saw the contrast
between the woman of my dreams
and the you that doesn't want to live anymore
last night I saw the suicide refusing the crown

I am no longer confused by the facts
the logic of your situation no longer compels me
to believe in my dreams
it is not a question of will
but ability
not that you are refusing the cure
but that you cannot swallow the medicine

I used to admonish
certain of my lovelorn patients
baffled as they were
by why their boyfriend or husband
would not respond with the sensitivity they craved
saying
"you think that he has what you want
and he's not giving it to you,
but what if he just doesn't have it?"
I think I need to take my own advice.





extraterrestrials

it had to snow
half-hearted flakes
lightly falling from the sky
tiny, white visitors from another planet
meandering on our wayward breezes

the overcast could no longer be contained
winter's cloudy crown
spilling over
the atmospheric pressure
demanding some relief

in the distance
the mountain
is already wrapped in snowy fog
here too
the storm will soon begin in earnest

the air becomes much whiter
roof and ground acquire a frosting
a blanket woven by crystalline guests
emissaries from a world
much purer than our own





finale

it rained all day
lightly
or,
dark and thundering,
in buckets

after lunch
in a borrowed coat
a walk back
from the other side of town
(hat still drying on the back of this chair)
through colors emboldened by wetness
the green of August trees dripping,
double yellow lines
gleaming along the blackest pavement
the sky unrelentingly gray

now just moments after sunset
the western heavens open
clouds erupting into gold
then orange
now pink

an unexpected revelation
consummation
...and then the night





genesis

so many things have to be just right
gravity
electromagnetism
the forces that operate inside atomic nuclei
as well as the masses and relative abundance of particles therein
everything needs to be perfect
absolutely as it is
not a little weaker or stronger
or tuned slightly differently
in order for life to exist

this universe's
defying of all the odds
is,
by embarrassed scientists,
referred to as
the anthropic principal.
on the street
it's called
divine creation

that G-d arranged the world
perfectly positioning it for life
makes it easy to believe
that He wanted us to meet



fear of death

I am the fear of death
Mongol hordes sweeping in off the steppe
the cornered beast
the cowboy outgunned
I am all that remains to be done
and its undoing
the infant sensing its demise
the terminal disease diagnosed
the vision dimmed
the final breath


the person I imagine

I keep imagining you
but I have to admit
you're not the person I imagine
or you are
but only rarely;
I keep imagining that we can recreate
those extraordinary moments we've shared
but you are not always in the mood for miracles;
be careful how you let yourself go
sometimes it's impossible to get back,
if you cross your eyes
and someone slaps you on your back
you might always see double;
be careful what you pretend to be
because that's what you are;
I am a pool of love
on a hot summer day
you are sweating in the sun,
whatever it is you are trying to prove
you can get back to it
after a little swim.
no one can love you
more than you love yourself,
I found that out the hard way;
that you cannot love others
instead of yourself
is another recent insight;
playing together is usually a lot more fun
than playing alone
or not playing at all;
it's easier to notice the years passing by
the more years that have passed;
no longer trying to get into your pants
I find myself still concerned about your well-being;
stop trying to help others
and save your self,
as Buddha advised,
"Work out your own salvation diligently."


rise

it depends what was expected
somehow to rise above this overcast sky
up through these wrinkled underbellies
of interminably gray clouds
and then?
what was imagined
justice, fairness, a level playing field
something more



jet age love

you say you will visit
one day after another
but you don't.
it is understood
that you are very busy

when you do arrive
each time
like a fighter pilot returning from a mission
there is a debriefing
unwinding the stress
coming back to earth
from unfriendly skies

it is my fault
for wanting to take you away from the war
for imagining a cottage in the country
with dogs and kids

meanwhile
the sun is setting
orange
through the dark green leaves
impossibly lush leaves
and I am cooking dinner for one
wondering if that is you I hear
roaring overhead





limits

I don't take it personally
it's just what you do
or don't do
that you can't accept the love
from the one who knows you "best"
is not due to a flaw
in the one who offers it
when asked to lend your words
to the project of your dreams
you are silent
the money isn't delivered
the charity unapplied
I see you as you could be
you are consumed with how things were
personal, professional and spiritual goals are elusive
but it's summer now
and the weather is so fine
it could be that I am mistaken
your resistance might be justified
your refusal to join the vision
you are your brother
and I am you
and no one wants to change
or admit they're wrong
but I know
that I've been fooled before
and the fact that
you haven't responded to my professional offer
puts your personal refusals in perspective
when you are young
the opportunities appear endless





luxury

in parts of Bombay
people live
over one million per square mile,
there the greatest luxury
is solitude.
here it's not so easy to say

back in school
Robert opined
"free time is the most important commodity."
these days there's a glut on the market
time to think
time to dream
however too much
can be
as bad as too little

then there's Mammon
but as dad was wont to say
"money's only important when you don't have it"
that first five hundred dollar handbag
spends the night in bed with you
right next to the pillow
but when it's your fifth one
you find yourself wondering
what to do after lunch?
it gets to where money can't buy
can't buy a thrill

food's only important when you're hungry
with satiety
it's merely an indulgence
or worse
entertainment

sex drives
then after the hormones have had their way
it seems silly
leaving you by the side of the road
stupidly waking up
from some biological Svengali

fame
all the evidence suggests
does more harm than good
especially for those who achieve it
the cult of celebrity working better for fans
than for the objects of their adoration

insight has enduring worth
but the practice of reading between the lines
leads to some pretty anxious conclusions
the world being unkind to a thinking person
some things are better left unknown

fill in the blank
the phenomenon is universal
desire leads us on
giving us direction and purpose
while attainment yields disillusionment,
ennui

the solution, of course
as Buddha proclaimed
is an end of desiring
of commodities and attainment;
an unpleasant, inescapable conclusion
for a thoughtful man
whose got the time and solitude
for such luxurious considerations.



noon

morning dawned
lead-gray
yesterday's heat
replaced by thankless cool

the car has been delivered for repair
requiring only three jumps on the way to the garage
mom is on her way to her monthly lunch with her sisters
in for her
the strange newness of my subaru
calls have been made to the proper authorities
mail sorted
business conducted
lunch packed
dirty clothes have found their way into the hamper
dirty dishes into the sink
my daughter has visited
now it's cross-town on the bicycle
for religious obligations
and the computer room at the university

it is an itch that can't be scratched
a migrating pain
here today
there tomorrow
a pleomorphic complaint
rampantly shape-shifting
perhaps it is the species demanding its due
some faceless urge coaxing
perhaps existence's angst
the animal sensing its end
the edge of the precipice
exhilaration and fear

morning's hurdles cleared
a day's worth of accomplishment
it's mostly downhill from here
a pleasant pedal through tree-lined lanes
mid-day, mid-june.
perhaps it is the rain
waiting patiently to fall




persuade

oh you to whom life hardly matters
why are you so afraid?
your hair unkempt
your clothes in tatters
why can I not persuade?



pupa

the old categories do not apply
it's not a question of new ideas
but of new ways of thinking

the caterpillar knows nothing of the butterfly's wing





spring's first week

winter is over
birds are returning from the south.
here and there
in piles of exotic whiteness
snow lingers
souvenirs from another clime
of a journey already completed

coaxed by the sun's warm hand
the earth awakens.
the ground still wet from last week's thaw
needing reassurance
that the deep freeze is gone

when stirred
the breeze is cool
grumpy
like some bear roused from hibernation.
hips and remnant leaves still cling to thorny stems
in this empty garden,
the rose yet unimaginable

coyly the sun retreats behind clouds
an uncertain lover
who yet extends her visits each day
rendering cold, long nights
now only a dream

behind the house
facing north
by the hatchway door
where water running down the hill
pools and freezes
the last, smallish patch of still thick ice
breaks up beneath the blade

there is a sense of victory
of survival
even as that over which we triumph
is forgotten





sullen smile

the day hangs like a sullen smile
light gray overcast
obscuring a pale blue sky
rain falling briefly this mid-afternoon
half-heartedly
into puddles left by morning's storm
an old joke
a story told
to illustrate a point already made
a hunger without an object.
the sun tries to come out
but like a child who hasn't finished cleaning her room
cannot
her yellow disc peering through the curtain of a window that the clouds left open
July is asleep today
a well-fed cat napping on the rug

there is an end of desiring
an equipoise achieved by lack of expectation,
nowhere to go
twilight settling among the trees





summer fancy

it was the night
the wine
the loneliness of two people
not yet given up hope
the candlelit porch
the coolness of the evening after a hot summer day

she stood and walked over
placing herself next to his seated form
leaning down onto him as she traced with her finger
the juncture of the leafy canopy and the sky
opened up when the great tree fell
making sure that he could see what was missing
secretly pressing her need against his

it was the hint of longing in her voice
when she asked if he'd be staying
until after the call scheduled to come from California
the time spent finishing dinner
with her husband and their daughter
while she was inside on the phone

it was the way she came
so eagerly upon them when her call was over
the embrace
much more than friendly
with which she said goodbye
the enthusiasm with which she bid him to return

and he enjoyed returning her flirtations
his hand gently clasping her calf as she leaned over him on the deck
herself part of the forest canopy
losing himself in that parting hug
his hands playing provocatively across her back
scratching along her spine

her daughter, who brought him there,
at 27
skittish and unsure
her womanhood dwarfed by mother's readiness
her husband, a decent chap
a little helpless or weary
the guest poised to intrude
trying to gauge the happiness of the home
and whether she really wanted him
or wanted just to know
that he wanted her
or whether it was only the night





suspension

the ordinary is not enough
while the exceptional has its own schedule
not to be conjured up
like some genie from a bottle,
the day passes
overcast and brutally humid,
a breeze through the trees
promises relief
clouds gathering in the west
remind one of rain,
simple projects are lacking
a garden of cucumbers and leeks
a shed to be built,
ancient truths lie strewn across the desk
pages holding their breath,
invited guests do not arrive
everything awaiting the storm





tea brewing

tea brewing on the stove
smoke rising from the chimney
cat on my lap purring

trees just giving up their green
first hints of red and yellows
autumn's early chill
reminds us of all that still
needs doing

morning's fog is burning off
I've been away for a long time
but I'm back now





victory

it's not a question of rearranging what already is
nor of substituting this for that
somehow finally getting it right

it is a different way of seeing
something not yet thought of
a revolution of imagination

an unknown sonata
a door not opened

cherishing the empty hours
no one
nothing
cat nestling on my lap
time to think
to dream and write
to wake to the sound of thunder in the late afternoon
appreciating something before it is gone

each instant
the world is recreated
everything forever expiring
and coming into being
new sun
orange-pink
between evening's clouds
new breeze
rustling August's deep green leaves

the sky grows dark
as if to storm
but still there is no rain



White Antelope

White Antelope stood in front of his lodge singing his death song
Nothing lasts long
Nothing lasts long
Except the mountains and the sky

 

 

animal, vegetable, mineral

your preference
for the cat in your mother's basement
rather than a life above ground
eludes me

that you would root
transforming like Daphne into a tree
choose an immobile, vegetable ideal
over the running touch of god on your flesh
some atavistic alchemy
turning blood to sap
perplexes me

that ordinary stones
present beauty to you
unafforded by things human
renders null my hopes

one day you may find
your beloved nature not so innocent
nor yourself so guilty
and understand
that while you shrink
from the dark winds within you
the world waits
only
for you to be borne aloft





autumn fire

the trees are all yellow, orange, red
brilliant colors of the sun
captured by leaves...
how wonderful this new world

you come like autumn
adding bursts of color
until one day the green is gone
nothing is the same
love revealing the fire within
forests of flaming color

how wonderfully I burn





cataclysm, sunday morning

it is a miracle in reverse
a mountain hovering overhead
stones falling from treetops
boulders sloughed off against broken branches
murderously pelting the ground
raw underbelly of the earth grinding down on hill and roof.
cool subterranean breath
poisoning the atmosphere with the chthonic scent of death
the moist odor of minerals and decay.
the vast, hidden foundation revealed
blocking the sun
eclipsing the sky
featureless clay and rock
threatening to crush
and then crushing
scraping the planet clear
of its thin layer of life
and the noise
the horrible, deafening rumble





charm

I wish I knew the words to say
I wish I knew the charm
the magic or the prayers to pray
to keep you all from harm
to bring you to my arms.






collision

the cat yeowled at five am
not once
but three or four times
and after I got up
to hit her with my pillow
I couldn't fall back asleep
now it is almost seven
and sitting up in bed
I notice outside my window
the dawn

my heart is bruised within me
like a deer colliding with your pickup
waiting in the quiet night
beside the empty road
the humming of your engine heard
and then the headlights seen
far away like two jewels in the night
growing brighter and bigger
the humming louder
and suddenly it is too late
the machine roaring too loud and close
confusion turns to panic in an instant
the only safety in the woods on the other side of the road

the blow comes on the final bound
the deer launched upward
almost away
when it is met
by the front end of your truck

the initial bang of metal buckling
and ribs cracking
then the thudding of flesh
and the clatter of hoof and antler
across the hood and windshield and roof
then flight
over the bed
crashing to the road.
the windshield broken
the brakes too slow
the tires already stop their screeching
but before you have time to realize you are not hurt
and open the door
the creature
propelled by fright
is on its legs
miraculously unbroken
and hobbling off into the trees

sitting here
under the covers
I hear the cars now rumbling down the avenue
their tires swishing along the pavement
still wet with last night's rain
their headlights on in the lingering darkness

it is just that now
seemingly
on the verge of great joy
the sorrow speaks up
wanting not to be forgotten
reminding me of the foolish certainty of youth
that there is time enough to waste
hours and days to spend untying the knots of the past
instead of meeting the future
remembering other waitings by the dark roadside
other hopeful fascinations
growing brighter in the night
ending with hide and blood
ornamenting the grill

somewhere behind these clouds
the sun is already up
the shadows now retreated
to the corners of this room
the blackness of my heart now gray
like this overcast sky
covering my dreams and view of heaven





declaration

yellow leaves sparkle golden in the sunshine
a small flock of birds swoop and spin on the wind
black dancers against the blue sky

I come home for an afternoon nap
before I return to the communal celebration

all I can do is dream of you





discourteously

day fades into twilight
gray clouds yet unmoved
yesterday's rain still saturating the ground
finding its way into parched rivers and lakes

it is a little death
this evening which approaches
quiet sunday october afternoon
imperceptibly disappearing

it should be worse
has been
the solitary hours conjuring the muse
the expectation of human reprieve
the knock on the door that doesn't come
a silent telephone

there is no urgency
no sense of things not done
no worry over opportunities missed
only a dawning in reverse
inexorable darkness
unhurriedly displacing the light
substituting one set of dreams for another

it's time to turn on the lamp
and prepare supper
the poem writes itself





diving in

your words embrace me like the waters of a summer lake
deliciously smooth against my skin
all is calm and silence beneath their surface
sunlight and green shadows
buoyed up by the sweet tongue that spoke them
I float there
a fish in their currents





fairytale

it happens
as if in a dream
unfolding night after night

like a storybook
the plot deepening page by page

the dangerous road
the wounded princess
her noble companion

these words
spells
to strengthen them
and guide them home

conjurings
to bring to life the fairytale
to make the dream come true



fireflies

after the wedding
for better or worse
halfway through the party
it was already late
just after dark
nine o'clock
to start the four hour drive north
(three and a half, if you don't get out of the car)
but the carpenter would be there in the morning
and the drive would be harder in the AM.
crossing the lawn
in front of the shul
where the chupa had been
shards of a broken glass
sat in a tiny pile
the night was warm
the car was on a side street
Sunday, June 25th

Vermont
the Northeast Kingdom
and Bald Mountain Retreat
are straight up Interstate 91.
just north of Springfield the street lights disappear
leaving only headlights at 75 miles per hour
to split the darkne...
only for a moment.
past the Amherst exit
the traffic,
light as it is northbound on a Sunday night,
evaporates
the country begins
and crossing the line into Vermont
the mountains
the geography of another state
Brattleboro, White River Junction
with books on tape, The Razor's Edge
to keep me company
until just before midnight
and St Johnsbury
and the first hints of fatigue

on the back roads the darkness is complete
everyone is asleep
the curves and hills to Lake Willoughby
the farms and houses
by now are all familiar
but stay awake
and watch for moose
strolling across the road.
up the mountain from the lake the asphalt stops
the dirt road freshly graded
cows lying
black and white boulders
just on the other side of the fence
then onto a smaller road
a dead end


heaven and earth

ash leaves falling
yellow through the pine
tumble and sound upon the needles
like a chipmunk walking on the forest floor
dry leaves crackling under tiny feet

strange this earthy sound
coming down from above
yellow acrobats
floating against the gray sky
dancing their descent
through the sparse young evergreen

sounding like rain
just beginning to fall
single drops plopping.
why is it
that I am not getting wet?






homecoming

I feel you like a season approaching
autumn's harvest
or winter's cold
work to be done
canning jars and firewood
spring's seedlings started in the south window
before the snow is off the ground
or like the playfulness of summer
I feel you coming

I hear the song of your words
melody of birds
babbling brook
rustling of squirrel and chipmunk along the forest floor
snap and pop of someone's hooves upon a fallen branch

I am the child you carry in your arms
nursing at your breast
who you teach the ways of the people
the original ways
drinking in the milk of your words and your silences

I see you in the green of growing things
blue dome of sky
orange of setting sun
blackness of night
flickering of the candle's flame

a great burden has just been put down
an empty stomach filled
after much lost wandering
a path towards home is found

the seasons are approaching
the wind is in the trees
blowing your scent to me





luminosity

scientists in Japan
have now detected
light
being emitted
from the palms, feet and foreheads
of human beings

this is only belated confirmation
of something lovers and saints
have known for eons

oh, the brightness of your eyes
the aurora of your lips





mid-October

held in the air of yesterday's sunshine
water condenses this grey morning
into clouds of mist upon the mountain
wet veils lazily sweeping the tops of autumn trees

surprised by weight and form
vapors fall back to earth
wispy grey ribbons twining through leaves
also falling
red, orange and gold
victims of their own impossible brilliance

so far summer has survived
the last streams of her warm tide
ebbing softly into October's sea
but now
faintly
the traces are all of winter





moonstruck

my heart swells like the moon
shining behind a thin veil of cloud
tonight
in the October sky.
with you the fullness will be complete
the circle will be unbroken





reasons

I cannot count the times you've left me
cannot measure your goodbyes
your dreams of a pristine world
pull you away
from the flesh and blood I offer
there is no way I can compete
with your peopleless retreat
the monastic wilderness within you

are you not a forest creature
at home under a canopy of trees
bedding down among the grass and leaves?
that some wildness of my own calls you to me
some animal sympathy drawing you across the threshold
into my house
luxuriantly covered in vines
that from my hand you fed
that I took you to my bed
never guaranteed that you would stay

these are not earthly sounds you play
a melody so sweet and yet defiant
the notes a flock of birds upon the breeze
rising up from golden leaves
one autumn afternoon outside my window
and then I can no longer hear the song you sing
the bow still moving on the string
the pitch above the human range

the other day I surprised you
arriving unannounced through your backdoor
catching you unready
no cross-town pilgrimage upon the bicycle
no wind in your hair
to ripen you for the moment
no waiting for the most auspicious time…
love is blind I realize
still then staring in your eyes
I could see the many reasons for your leaving
now I wonder who is wise
and which of us is the bigger dreamer?


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Free Verse 5

 

relativity

if black holes and neutron stars
bend time and space
then doesn't our coming together
on my third floor
warp the neighborhood;
cars misdirected down the avenue
birds over these rooftops
veering mysteriously in their flights
the breeze more wayward through the trees?

and as our bond grows
the dark matter of our union increasing
might not the hidden mass of our love
effect those on the sidewalks below
drawing their sad faces
up into smiles?





revelation

spring lustily unveils herself,
melting the last patches of snow
from shadowed hollows upon the mountain
swelling the brook

the sun chooses a bolder path
longer and higher through the sky

a weary traveler
wakes from a dream of the road
to find himself at home

after all is said
the redolent silence
inspiration's gathering swell





tabula rasa

to sort between the sadnesses
the violins and hunger
the personal and that shared by the species
that
from all the words
of a lifetime's speaking
might be culled a single poem

you called on my birthday
among your nervous stammerings
less than the half minute allowed by my answering machine
there is only the melody of your voice
comfort beyond thought
a mother cooing to her child

two weeks on
there is no word
the mail has been getting lost
showing up in wet clumps in the bushes
blowing away in the wind
already it is the ninth of September
you are saying goodbye to your summer island
my mind sees you incongruently on an airplane
the seaweed you harvested along the shore
still wet under your fingernails
a wild creature assuming human form
compliantly buckling her seatbelt for takeoff and landing

yesterday again there was no letter from you
no announcement of the date of your return
(your mother is not answering her phone)
but also it was the birthday of our dear Arvo Part
and today, …now his Tabula Rasa on my stereo
demonstrates some greater, inhuman good
a beauty culled from
cooing and seaweed and violins
ocean waves
and leaves already turning autumn colors
the music you left for me
your epistle

absence makes the heart grow
this summer without you
clears the eye
it is not about babies or judaism
patriarchy or civilization
but a rare elegance that resonates between us
a sanctuary
a home for delicate wings
I love you without time or self
before you were born
the violin you would play sang to me
the sensitivity that would be ours
announced your coming

come to me
just one more time
now or forever




thaw

lonely years melt.

great sheets of ice
retreat from off the springtime lake,
floating islands of winter
lapped by waves already free.
upon the water's still solid back
rippling puddles sparkle in the sun
newborn pools
overflow frozen cradles
spilling into the fluid deep.

now inescapably
the lonely years all melt
kissed by the warmth of your smile



no surrender

there is nothing to be done about it
the last day of august
thicker than molasses
has penetrated my being
syrupy in my veins
dank and heavy in my lungs
something is very wrong
but it will not show itself
the day before yesterday
a hurricane blew in off the gulf
category four
flooding new Orleans
under ten to twenty feet of water
the levees are broken
lake ponchatraine drains into the city
today is Yitzchak Perlman's sixtieth birthday
I want to retreat
pull into a shell
snail-like
but there is no refuge
I want to give up
but there is nowhere to surrender



unforeseen

tired of omniscience
the All Knowing endowed man with uncertainty,
craving the unknown
our Maker freed us to wonder and to fail.
that we have imparted our wonder to the Creator
is clear from His questions
in the Garden on that first day,
where are you?
and, why did you eat
the fruit of the Tree
whereof I told you not to eat?
(as if we might know what eludes Divinity)
and all the many questions since.
our own perplexity
a small price to pay
for the success of our novel mission
surprising G-d with our unanticipated produce
our unexpected needs
the unforeseen consequences of creation





wanting you

my knives long to find their edge
rubbing against your stone
this food waits to become your flesh
the rug expects your footfall
sheets yearn to measure the smoothness of your skin against their flannel
my bed anticipates the weight of your woman's body
these mirrors desire to hold you inside them
the cat hungers to purr warmly on your lap
in the distance the snowy cliff
hopes to have you admire it
through the window which is happy
only to be as nothing before you





across the horizon

it's something not done
not for others
or for ourselves
not forbidden, but denied
a room unvisited
drapes drawn against the light

beyond imagination
jumbled like a dream
a song imperfectly remembered
sung to us
when we were too young to know the difference
a fable half recalled
sheets thrown over the furniture
to keep away the dust

music to the deaf
colors to the blind
home to the wanderer
books silent upon the shelf

a road not taken
a call unanswered
the door creaking on touch

how could you not think me mad
asking you to step
across the horizon



april's showers

the weather and my moods keep changing
spring appearing
and slipping away
ice forming on the puddles in the driveway overnight
an artic breeze
keeping buds whorled on the trees
a week of sun warming the ground
then clouds and rain

mostly it's the waiting
for forces beyond my control
the earth to tilt
the sap to rise
the lilac doesn't bloom without winter's cold
may's flowers need the rain
still, it pays to have something to do





circumambulation

it brought us back to the beginning
there after yoga on the floor
and sweating in the sauna
and showering not quite together
sharing carrot juice and mango
speaking sorrows and ideals
while our simple dinner cooked

then, after dinner
the playful innocence of our touching
the yoga and tomfoolery
the weight and mass of physical form
spinning tantric webs around us
leading us to dessert
spooned lovingly into each others mouth
and then, quite wisely
the walk you suggested

setting off around the hill
I took your hand
then you put your arm around me
mansions and long grass wet with evening's rain
the seminary's quiet, glory
"Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge Lead Me to G-d"
the path at the end of the cul-de-sac
leading us through the park
then up Vanderbilt Road
and back through my side door
for tea and poetry
a little snuggle on the couch
and the rest of the night
neither of us wanted to end

the Buddhists circumambulate their stupas
walking around their shrines
to honor the holiness within,
their steps returning them
transformed
to where they started.
circling the hill
we celebrate
the wisdom uncovered along our ways
leading us, holy sister,
to G-d and to each other,
bringing us back to our new beginning

my heart
a prayer wheel
still spinning from your touch





may

it's been cold and gray for weeks
still somehow the leaves have emerged
fledgling green against the overcast
all that there is
proves insufficient
the world is not enough
the animal urge
for food and procreation
for shelter
for light against the darkness
only arouses disdain,
the calculus does not add up
like a story without an ending
or a hole in the bottom of your pocket.
the cat just wants to eat
mom watches colorized reruns of bonanza
visiting I am impressed with the rich tones
truer that life.
if you have the time and quiet
you cannot fail to notice the inconsistencies
nature's only virtue is that she is unapologetic.
back in high school English class
addressing my comment
that it is always better to know the truth
Harvey Knowles observed
"that's very greek of you."
it's lonely in the monastery
everything has been stripped bare
still somehow the leaves have managed to emerge





memorial day

death, injury, battle fatigue
everyone has their reasons
the walking wounded
fear still fresh in their eyes
are the lucky ones
silence deafening
after the war
bandaged limbs and broken hearts
reaching out
into a painful embrace

there is too much gambled
too much already lost
the pang of contact
senses unable to sustain another direct hit
raw and festered flesh
barely clinging to the bone
yet something far from human
compels us on
one foot in front of the other
a primal motive
forcing us to look into each others eyes
for something long ago
we had stopped hoping to find

the day started out sunny
but now a blanket of wooly-gray clouds
brings an early twilight
it is the end of May
but the weather turns cool
the dead in their graves
are worthy of our remembrance
lives cut short by war





physicality

the flower is all the more beautiful
because it does not last
the full moon
brighter in the night sky
because of its waning
the sheer impossibility of the moment
renders it precious

this Spring is unique
unlike all others
leaves baby-green upon the trees
sky of blue
clouds so white
love showing in our eyes
in the courtyard
where we cannot help but smile

I would make of you a temple
circumambulating your holiness
worshiping at your altar

it is as simple as a cat stretched out on the rug in the sun
petals dropping from the flower
ovules swelling into seeds
stars falling from the sky

I am unbothered by eternity





seasons

it is a fullness that needs no other
no different or more
lying in a clearing
on Rattlesnake Mountain
one lazy autumn afternoon
the leaves
exploding into color

an everywhere
beyond all limit
the perfect heart of space
snow falling
in the twilit woods
at winter's end

a now
of infinite eternity
of every breath breathed
new shoots uncovered
green and still furled
in the garden
beneath the blanket of last year's leaves

a union all-inclusive
the truest purpose
the sweetest gift
summer's breeze
blowing heavenly through the window
you putting on my clothes
when it's time for you to leave





the last day of school

each time we meet is like a poem
yesterday in the park
the frisbee's varied lines of flight
the scent of first roses in the garden
spring's luxuriant lawn
visits to those special trees
maple and oak and cedar
strolling arm in arm or holding hands
in evening's warm sun
bicycling like a couple of kids

there is a love which would overwhelm us both
a flood which would sweep clean the face of the earth
a current irresistible which would draw us down
to live like fishes
at the bottom of the deep blue sea

you stand there upon the shore
watching me
already splashing among the waves



your last

you promise yourself that it will be your last
but it wont be
you feel yourself sinking deeper
but somehow it doesn't matter
if fact there is some perverse satisfaction
just deserts
this is where you belong
the world outside seems so far away
endlessly, endlessly retreating
even if you wanted to reach out
to grab it
to take hold
which you don't.
you are beyond space
beyond time
not tomorrow
not yesterday
not now
what goal?
what rationale?



balance

the house is too big
empty rooms
left unheated
bedrooms turned into closets
living space choked with the residue of years
plenty of room for the unused past
hung and shelved and piled high on unused chairs
and for ghosts
lost spirits
still trying to imagine significance
unwilling to admit their lack of substance

pleased to be free of the disturbance of human occupation
they invite our neglect
left to their own hauntings
coolly languid among the webs and dust

we do our best
on the door's other side
to people the warm space
with the signs of life
music
the smell of food
cats and conversations
sleep and love and plants

the big house
absorbs all
and is not full
maintaining a balance
between what is and was
footsteps of the living and the dead
echoing down hallways
swirling dust in vacant rooms





bedtime

it doesn't matter now
what I've done
or haven't done
how deep the hole
or high the mountain
there is no fixing it
no way to break the spell
the wound admits no balm
the lock rusted shut
the promised key unturning
the building collapses
and we build on top of the rubble
cities are buried
left for future generations of archeologists to wonder at
the night flows by my window
an ocean of darkness
here on the other side of midnight
I want only sleep
distractions cease to distract
the profit and the loss
day's garish ornaments
now but a dream
here is the end of fixing and building
an end of doing
the beast sinks beneath the weight
exhausted
the spirit wants only to be done
the weary eye to close
I reach out to nothing
and nothing comforts me





mega-force

G-d is a mega-force
the mega-force
encompassing planets, stars and galaxies
stretching to the ends of the universe
and beyond creation
a cosmic intelligence
manifesting form

we are within that Universal Mind
part of G-d's neuroanatomy
He imagines us
we are a part of His dreams
a phenomenon in His brain

no doubt the angels are fields of energy
that our scientists are just beginning to conceptualize
immutable laws of physics and light
gravity and subatomic principles
the countless miracles that govern life
and rule the heavenly bodies
and the vastness of intergalactic space

everything
matter and energy
in a way both intimate and inhuman
resolving into a grand design
Einstein's unified field
hear o Israel, the Mega-force our G-d, the Mega-force is one


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Free Verse 6

 

not life

feed the cat
water the plants
sometimes it's hard just putting one foot in front of the other
some days are worse than others
after forty years I still can't tell why
astrology, basal body temperature
who know?
it doesn't figure
sitting blank like the page
the atmosphere a gluey miasma
stuck, everything stuck
frozen like a snake in its den
like flies on the sill
deathlike until spring

fighting only makes it worse
worrying about everything that I should be doing
grand plans, noble intentions
it's hard enough to wash the dishes or take out the trash
forget about composition
poems and essays will have to wait
for the end of this creative constipation

bad luck
up on the wrong side of the bed
short days at the end of the year
lack of sunshine
the damn holidays
there are plenty of explanations
none of which help

rain won't fall and the sun don't shine
all potential lost
I am reduced to a reptilian existence
a lizard on a stone contemplating nothing
feeling nothing except the ache of some dimly remembered humanity
ambition, as gray as the day, flops helplessly
gasping stupidly like a fish out of water
a primal, thoughtless pain
the instinct to survive
frustrated

boredom would be a peaceful relief
failure a welcome finale
an end to the trying
there is no success
only the hope of winning
only the game
and not even that today

icy visions encircle me
spectral forms blowing
snowy gusts of wind
my hands too cold to strike the match to make the fire
the air too thick to breath
my heart too tired to beat
an end to dreams
an end to strife
this life which is not life



over

it's time to say goodbye
to empty rooms
to realize that I'm the one who haunts them
peopled by years
the hallway with so many doors
no longer echoes to my footsteps
spectral faces of those who've passed
the ebb and flow
the rooms now quiet
I am the last
lingering, doing some small good
they come now so infrequently
to tell me of their woes and seek a cure
and usually they are not disappointed
but I haven't the heart for it
refusing to wear the finery they have come to expect
I am an antiquarian
I am an antique
warm oak
instead of aseptic chrome and formica
my hair too long
my demeanor too loose
too familiar
it is hard to be ahead of your time
I spit on the authoritarianism they have come to expect
the disempowering professionalism
that medicalizes their problems
that labels them diseased
and me the dispenser of grace
not finding the trappings to which they've been accustomed
many go elsewhere
and truthfully my heart is not in it
the phone calls unreturned
it shows, it shows
rather I be a prophet
or mad
a ragged professor of the occult
there is a sound yearning to be heard
a page to be turned
a chapter, a book to close
is it possible to stay?/to leave?/to leave behind?/to change?
the eye becomes opaque
before the snake
sheds its skin
nothing to lose or win
a pirouette,
a turning inside out
a revelation in the doing
taking leave



planets

I've turned my back so many times
walked away
leaving what was in hand
or almost so
for some dimly imagined
noble adventure
called onward
away from the promise of security and ease
unready for comfort
not fit for love

planets wandering through the sky
changing their positions
moving through constellations
finding no home among the stars

now empty-handed
my beard turning grey
I stare out into the night
and wonder
about the paths I've taken
possessed it seems
by mirages
shimmering over horizons
distant or near
keeping true to a truth which always yet eludes me

so far from simple things
a warm and happy bed
the pleasant fullness of a meal
laughter on the wind
strange hungers
denying me
such common satisfactions

fortune
written there among the stars
but not for human eyes to read
destiny
heaven's distant light
yet leaves the earth in shadows





religion

it is an obsessive compulsive's dream
rules piled on top of rules
fences around prohibitions
so that you don't even come close
detail and nuance to the nth degree
custom, tradition and law
rote and routine
cherished legal technicalities
accumulating over millennia
but where is the spirit?
the participation mystique?
the revolution has become the establishment
turning in on itself
running dry
the magic lost
somewhere among the tractates
how many angels on the head of a pin?
rituals lose their significance
actions performed automatically
without understanding
words recited without knowledge

we each serve according to our capacity
some sit like an audience at a show
some play just the way it's written
some improvise
some need to be out
before they come in
and after they come
they go
it's a lonely, slippery road
but nothing else seems to work
no comfort in the crowd
the solution will not come from within the tribe
strange fire is needed to light the lamps
lost sparks to illuminate the darkness





rising blind

it's the simple things
closing the door behind and going up the stairs in the dark
fingers sliding along the wall
the pressure of bare feet on naked stairs
turning the head to look at nothing
in the perfect blackness
these are the things the soul will miss when it's no longer in a body
ordinary miracles
easily overlooked
air welcomed into the lungs and expelled
the virtuosity of fingers touching
the darkness of ascension
the soft smell of old worn wood
stepping up blindly
there where there is no light
opening the door at the top
emerging



after all it's not so special
so common that we usually miss it
fascinated with our own contrivances
following our own flawed logic
we miss the natural gift
treasures with no takers
lost in our complicated questions
we miss the simple truth



setback

he has danced on stages around the world
fathered a movement
preferring now the peopleless calm of the distant north
thanking heaven for the barrier of the cold

in summer his gardens grow fecund
where the farmer used to dump the manure
his lithe body swaying in the field
scything grass for the compost he so dutifully tends

there past dance studio and the annex where he lives
behind and down the hill
he had a proper home built
windows and angles and pure blonde wood
the day was hot
and the workman
applying linseed oil to all the thirsty wood
broke for lunch
tossing the oily rag down inside the window

it all happened very fast
the sun brought the rag to flame
and the fire spread effortlessly across the freshly oiled wood
in a flash there was nothing to save
looking down now into the corner of that field
one notices nothing
only the fire scarred trees

he lives now
when not off dancing in some near or far corner of the world
in the annex
sleeping sometimes on a mattress in the studio
one can come say hello
but it's best to keep the visit short

the story is as old as time
the elements it seems
conspire against our dreams
reducing them to ashes
the garden in its season green
now lost beneath the snow





she's gone

ten months in Colorado
then who knows what or where
before she left she cried
I'll miss you
you won't be here when I get back
maybe I'll never see you again

still she really never was here
a part of her always missing
withheld
as if she were proving something to herself
at first I thought love would conquer
she'd get used to the water
stop wading and come for a swim
but she never ventured away from the shore
content to splash in the shallows

she'd turn away
pull back
fight the feeling
she'd give her body, but not her heart
and a heartless act gets old fast
I needed something to believe in
some fantasy
she wasn't having any of it
she would look in the mirror and not recognize what she saw
whose body is that in the glass?
her detachment a wet rag in my face

relationships require work
working together or against
in the end
her contrariness won
I quit
stepped back
stopped wooing
but she wasn't happy with the victory
when I yielded the field
all I had to offer broken in the mud
she came forward
surprised by the end of the game
by the lack of opposition

she was waiting for a vision
and assumed since none came
that it was she who needed to go
I was part of what was left behind

the last night we were together
she held me like she never did before
maybe it was the love she had been holding back
maybe it was her fear of going forward
the wheels turning
the train leaving the station
it was already too late
still
just for that evening
in her arms
I was content to dream
again





sometimes you just can't get the prescription filled

even if you know what it is you need
sometimes you just can't get the prescription filled
can't translate the perfect thought into action
no way to get out of the box

the bird flew in the backdoor
up the stairs to the second floor porch where the window were all closed
fluttering helplessly against the glass

it's a different kind of pain when it's up close
when you can see what's on the other side
within reach but out of touch
that's when it really hurts

you never really forget
but distance has a way of making it dull
like a song remembered only imperfectly
smelling the food only makes the hunger worse

I saw it there from my kitchen window
futilely searching for some way out
unable to imagine its captivity
still sure of the freedom of the Sunday morning sky

I was less convinced of my own freedom
couldn't find what I was looking for
couldn't make ends meet
no way out of the cage
the horse just didn't want to pull the load

slogging through the muck of a too ordinary day
I went through my neighbor's still open back porch door and up the stairs
(were they home?)
opened the window and guided the bird out with the screen I had removed
imagining what I might say if they came upon me climbing over their stuff

I am still trapped by uncounted necessities
a prisoner of half-born dreams crying for life
not awake, yet unable to sleep
the comfort I am ready to forget keeps appearing and receding from view

the bird flew off
leaving me to close the window, replace the screen and go back home
at least one of us is free



still hungry

when it finally arrives it is unrecognized
an unopened letter sitting on the table
an unanswered knock at the door
not this, not this
the mistaken expectation
that somehow it would be other
persists
so long imbued to war one cannot imagine peace
how could it be otherwise?
when love finally comes we are ashamed

this disquieting urge has become the most familiar thing
a relentless search precluding satisfaction
the work continues of itself
after the task is accomplished
the journey continuing past the goal

the answer comes in a language we cannot understand
victory awkward after so much struggle
it is hard to leave off
to put aside
unsettled by the quiet after so much noise

sun pouring through the window
strangely warm on the back of my neck
the cat asleep on the sofa
comfortable in one hundred different positions
lunch waits for me in the kitchen
why am I still hungry?





Sunday night stratagem

this morning it was snowing
tonight the stars are out
last night I couldn't fall asleep
this morning I couldn't wake up
it's a question of timing and configuration
the right thing at the right time
or not
great mysteries exist (when they do)
due to great ignorance
it's really quite simple once you get the hang of it
once they show you how it's done
find yourself a teacher
strive to be a good student
admit that you don't know

four inches of snow upon the ground
and still falling hard when I woke
added silence on a Sunday morning
tomorrow I'll be tired again when the alarm goes off
I'd better go to sleep before I get my second wind
Monday is a lot less forgiving than the weekend





the dividing line

the road was closed
outside of town
where the suburbs began to yield to country
closed there on top of the hill
all four lanes
somber looking police men intently blocked the way
not heeding my pleading

u-turn and off on the back roads
that the recent arrivals don't know
around to find the road blocked back the other way
this time my destination is okayed by a serious looking young man with a rectangular, badge on his raincoat
who moves an orange cone and lets me make a left where everyone else goes right
down the road, around the curve, up the other side of the hill
emergency vehicles have swarmed
cops, fire, ambulances

the man, pronounced dead and covered by a blanket has already been lifted from the pavement
others have been pried from their cars
victims all spirited medically away to whatever fate awaits them

there is an eerie stillness
fog or is it smoke rising sparingly
cars with flashing lights parked across the wide, empty road
the flow interrupted
a moment suspended
the crumpled wrecks sitting stupidly and guilty
in the late overcast afternoon, mid-December
as the sun sets somewhere behind the clouds
making way for the night

blame it on the freezing rain which fell the night before
blame it on the sand and salt spread to melt the ice
blame it on a moment's inattention
someone swerved across the double yellow and everything went to hell
it's never more than a couple feet that separate the living from the dead



the rabbi's wife

we are to be forgiven for loving her
the nobility of her form
aloofness hers by birth
she can trace her lineage back to the prophet Samuel
before there was a king over Israel

heir to some former glory
lost now to the world,
witness to that truer truth
she is unable to abide this poorer existence

the laughter deep and full
in those moments when it comes
turns her again into a girl
there across the table
crowded with guests and children
crowned with delicacies and candelabras
so human a voice
kindly surprising our ear

one would like to hold her
to take her hand
and there is something about her which would like to be held
in a way not yet found
to warm her cool repose
to melt that imperial demeanor
but for us such things are not possible
only to watch like an audience regarding a dancer on the stage
a distant love
a bow, a courtesy, a smile, a laugh, a word across the table
we are to be forgiven





The union evades him

The union evades him
gravity refuses to pull
there is no joy in being right, alone
the end of days is not a pretty sight

a kind word, a human touch
did not seem like all that much
to ask for

she is after all quite young
not yet having shed her adolescent desires
like a skin scraped off against the unforgiving granite of life
she imagines that the living is something yet to come
instead of all that is

sure that magic resides more fully in some other town
she blindly points her finger at a map
prognosticating El Dorado
sure that her place and people are somewhere far
and other than where she was born

He is a fool
if not quite old, then old enough to know
of loss and almost and how the aching in his belly is here to stay
And after all her mistake is not as big as his
he has had so many years to practice
his dreams, rooted deep, refuse to die
surviving drought, and blight, and sharp-edged steel
stubbornly they sprout anew
beneath some gently rain
that April in her cruelness brings
and foolishly begin to flower

Yet when he held her head upon his belly he felt that old pain sigh
a crack of light, an opening into a dark, stale room
stirring shadows on the wall
cobwebs on the breeze
somehow in her arms the ancient tensions ease
persuading him against all he knew
with all already lost
to try
the corpse, long cold, seeming to stir

She was, in truth, always removed
her body yielding to his touch
a sacrifice upon the altar
a bridge that could not be crossed
failing mid-stream
the heaven there between her legs was stolen
impossible to coincide
juxtaposed by his urgent need
a gift unreceived
a moment disbelieved

And then there was nothing left to do but wish her well
star-crossed journeyer
unburdening himself of the disease she carried
and the unwanted cure
watching the blossom turn in upon itself in perfect narcissism
a cloistered realm
undisturbed in its pale purity
impermeable
a hard-won prize, now one not worth the fighting
the vigilant defense against all comers
no one in or out

Wish her well even as he gathers up the aid and comfort she refused
as she refused him the comfort he requested
content in her isolation
the freedom of not needing
as she dreamt of journeys not anywhere but away
of unencumbered flight
of helping people, but not him

Cassandra knew the blessing and the curse
what good is it to see the future when no one else believes?
the psychic's blessing blows away like scraps of paper on the wind
those that dangle must fall
the lost will not be returned
one can't undo the choices done
the voices in the night will not stop their haunting
it's hard to learn from mistakes until they're made
and even then not easy
to see reflected in someone else your own
before it is too late
our pain is our ours with no one there to save us from it
to force us to but look again
to thaw the ice with their embrace
a kingdom of our making

the door quietly closes
the dust resettles
the flower withers even before it is plucked
gravity fails, the moon drifts away into the night
finally free of the earth.



there's plenty of time for regrets

there's plenty of time for regrets
possibilities left to die by the side of the road
ghosts wandering between "if only" and "it might have been"
it's easy to forget why you came this way when you're up against a dead end
easy to envy the safe and warm when you're wet and cold
independence is a wonderful ideal, but practically it makes for some hard times

wondering, how it would have been if you played it differently
if you stayed longer or left sooner or at all
wondering what you were trying to prove
or how you could be so blind
or stupid

hindsight may not be 20/20 or golden, but it sure does romanticize the one that got away
the whole fantasy of a right choice or a better option is suspect
as if we were in a position to judge
as if we knew what lay down that path
the grass always seems greener

still you wonder, what if you knew then what you know now?
what if you had another chance?
it's a silly game, but one we can't help playing
no one wins
losers all around



time out

the bible does not tell us about the last years of Abraham or Isaac
or how Moses spent the sixty years from when he first fled Egypt
until he returned
and so we are left to wonder…
I imagine that these awesome characters
were happy to be off stage
Moses did not want to go back
send someone else
I have a speech impediment
Isaac didn't want to get involved with the disappearance of Joseph
figuring that if Jacob didn't know what happened
then it wasn't his place to tell him
who can blame Abraham for taking a rest after all that he'd been through

being the chosen one is no laughing matter
being at the center of history is pretty stressful
if exciting
the glory is outstanding
but there's no room for error
when G-d calls the tune, you'd best dance
and well

I think they were happy to have some time off
to be able to sit out a few
to let someone else have the glory
there is
I suppose
enough of potency and meaning
a point where the ordinariness of being human
is to be preferred over the power and the glory
significance weighs heavy
and anonymity is a relief

I see them happily engaged in simple things
wives and flocks
sunsets and rises
deserts and oases
singing softly beneath the stars
G-d watching them as one watches a baby sleep
enjoying through them the quiet pleasures
of the world
which He created





Tired of the seduction

I grew tired of the seduction
tired of the game
even while I was winning
everything was on my shoulders
I had to convince myself and then I had to convince her
each time.

She'd walk in the door
carrying everything I wanted
the answer to some long-term needs
but she needed to be persuaded
the challenge finally got to me
the uncertainty I knew to well
never being sure
no guarantee.

She always wanted to say "no"
for her it was dirty
the more I made love to her the less she respected me
it was always like that for her
some wires got crossed

each time we did it her body was more facile
the path clearer, we pushed deeper into the jungle
she could feel herself falling
and she didn't want to fall
her pleasure increased as her body let go
but her head held on
turning away upon the pillow

she couldn't get out of her head
and she wouldn't let me in
a matter of principle for her
preserving some kind of integrity
keeping the race pure
and I did try
charming, witty and wise
I did care and I let her know how much
I saw her high above it all, beautiful and strong
but she refused to fly
a goddess who would not bless
least of all herself

she feels trapped here
condemned to some irrevocable fate
an ordinariness to which all others have already succumbed
she needs to breathe a different air
and go she must
but was she ever here?

last night
my father frail and hospitalized, pathetic on the bed
the ambulance and emergency room still fresh from the night before
her offer of assistance proved as empty as the feeling in my belly
a stiff embrace which only increased my loneliness
her anger that I could not support her decision to flee
precluded the warmth I needed
fists clenched she held me to her cold breast
then got up and left

a bird in hand
may be worth the two in the bush
but those are the ones we want
we want what we can't have
or don't have yet
the grass is always greener…
it may be simple jealousy
it may be a noble drive to explore the unknown
it may be something in between
absence
or at least distance
makes the heart grow fonder
but when you get up close
it loses it's luster
that which is desired may not be worthy of the desire which is focused upon it
love seeks an object
but it may not be a good fit

imagination enhances reality
while reality acts like a cold wet towel in imagination's face

it's easier with money
but only up to a point
money's only important when you don't have it
when you've got it all
you can't buy a thrill

mostly we want the unattainable
or at least the unattained



uncounted

if you stop to count the losses
you won't be able to carry on
you'll never be through with the tally
the reasonable gamble gone wrong
the foolish waste
the unfortunate coincidence
a thousand variations
stretching back to before you were born
the brain has a special place for these failures
remote from calculation
far from memory
occasionally they bob to the surface
and quickly submerge
leaving only ripples to consider
circles radiating out from a point already disappeared
they are the price of doing business
the detritus of being human
the silent cry of the heart
the world is redundant
and so are we
the waste is allowed for
like spoilage on the shelf
far more than are needed come as standard equipment
extra pieces provided
don't stop
don't look back
we all get hit
but the show goes on
one thousand and one
one thousand and two
one thousand and three…



undelivered

she doesn't want to be helped
her complaint is not a plea for assistance
she does not want it set right

she wants most of all to bewail her fate
to curse the gods for the indignity of her existence
to cry from beneath the burden
alone

I need to listen without rushing to action
to accept that I am inadequate and too late
to know how far it is beyond me
a storm cloud darkening the horizon
a boat drifting out to sea
a diamond behind the shop window

there is some strange relief in failure
a peace unimagined and terrible
the feeling of discharge
of emptiness' comfort
of eyes washed clean by a good cry

there is nothing to be done about it
just let it bleed



now what?

I'm running short of ways to pass the time
days evaporate from sheer neglect
melting like snow beneath the rain
night brings no relief

the simple things will no longer do
a woman's touch
smoke curling towards the ceiling
a glass of wine and song
poisoned by surfeit
satisfaction has ruined the joy of anticipation

I am not happy with their baubles
cannot believe their promises
take no comfort in their assurances

something is demanded but what?
like a dreamer who knows he dreams and yet cannot awaken
I have come to envy those who do not know they are asleep
something strange beckons
there just beyond the corner of the eye
it cannot be seen, but felt

I have touched the web that runs below the face of this world often enough
to know that another exists
I have felt G-d's hand, but what does he want?

somehow I have survived
afloat while others drown
buoyed through storms and the night sea
how strange the land feels now beneath my feet
to what purpose?

to sleep like the cat curled up upon the pillow
retreat into some deep animal brain far beyond the reach of thought
where urge makes everything simple
feed, mate, fight or flight
the instinctual imperatives

captainless with no destination
there is no port called home
I am free and tormented by my freedom
all is left behind in the struggle to be born



you could see that the man had delivered too many lectures

you could see that the man had delivered too many lectures
the same lecture too many times
bored, tired he didn't care
he spoke soft and slow not for dramatic effect but because he was out of gas
coasting down the hill on vapors
it was all wind-up and no pitch
nothing to swing at
once upon a time he had something to say and had made a name for himself on the circuit
but now it was plain that he'd rather be somewhere else
his routine was worn like an old joke
he worked the crowd with an obvious disinterest
like he was thinking about something else
and no doubt he was
sleepwalking
even a cushy gig like his becomes a trap when you do it to many times
novelty may not last, but it sure beats death
maybe I had too much of a head start
knew too much about the subject
what had I expected?
originality? enthusiasm? authenticity?
he was just an old man trying to make a buck
you couldn't hate him for that
still I was glad I had crashed the gate


Back to top

 

Free Verse 7

 

a fine repast

already noon
breakfast seems
unimportant
when inspiration
presents itself
phone calls go unanswered
letters remain unopened
the sun
breaking through the clouds
draws me outside
whose stomach
is that growling?





all the way to the grave

he was a great poet
translated into fourteen languages
hard drinking, hard living
nothing was easy for him
but he gave as good as he got
even better
tough, tough, tough
finally got some breaks late in life
published a lot of poems
many volumes of poetry
and I've read every one I could get my hands on

now he's dead
ten years anyway
and the lady who graced his last years
along with this publishing house
keeps coming out with new volumes
posthumous
but the poems lack the zing of the stuff that came out while he was alive
and I guess that's why he kept them in the closet
instead of sending them to the publisher
I mean if I can tell
why can't they?
his Mrs. and the printer
don't they know that they're diluting his opus?
maybe they don't give a damn
maybe he doesn't
but I somehow imagine him rolling in his grave
no rest for the weary.



Assassin

This then is death
The fading light
The weakening heart
Falling
back and down
away
Dimness and dissolution
Silence
Rest
Sweet oblivion
Darkness
Regret
Pain.



the anatomy of pain

it catches the breath
up high in the belly
a vacuum
in the pit of the stomach
between the lungs
below the heart
drawing everything in
an emptiness undiminished
by all that it consumes

there in that closest place
an egg forever hatching
a beak and talon tearing at the liver
a weight on the kidneys
and the soul

it is the center of everything
from which all arises
to which all returns
the mother devouring her young
the snake swallowing its tail

faceless among its guises
shapeless amidst its forms
nameless despite all that it is called

the sacrifices have been offered
the entrails consulted
the rites enacted
the sacred songs all sung
and still the god remains unappeased

the diaphragm freezes
the heart misses a beat




 

amer-indian love

she came in one day
off the street
cold call
trying to sell me insurance
we started talking about herbs
and before you know it
I was giving her the tour
she was three quarters Sioux
her sons seven eighths
‘tho you're not supposed to count
at eight and eleven years old
I gave them their first sweat
in my Finnish, electric sauna
it's all sacred to them
with or without the trappings

it was winter
she was living in a house in suburbia
the furnace broke and she couldn't afford to fix it
or she couldn't pay the gas
so she started heating the place with the electric oven
but when that bill went through the roof
the company turned her off
and the only time I visited her house
there was a tree sticking out of the fireplace
lying ten or twelve feet across the livingroom
she didn't have a saw to cut it up
so they were just feeding it in
we had to step over it
on our way into the kitchen
to fetch the last exotic bird
her friend had smuggled in from South America
for sale
keeping the emeralds for himself
figuring they had the right
seeing as how they themselves
were natives

a beautiful head of coarse brown reddish hair
that woman had a streak of bad luck when I knew her
waiting at a light with her window down
someone flicked a cigarette butt
from a passing car
and hit her in the eye

her skin was hairless
smooth like a snake
and she was always ready
to pull her pants down
or her skirt up
she loved in a thoughtless, primitive way
like a beautiful animal in heat
and I was
I'm afraid
too often, too white
my human cortex
befuddled by ideas

she came back
to get some herbs
engaged to be married
a year or so
after we had stopped seeing one another
and took back
when I was out of the room
from off my shelf
I noticed when she was gone
the little red tobacco pouch
she had given me
to burn with a prayer
because I hadn't
and scolded me
before she left
about the beaded earrings
she made
to give to my daughter
which I sent back
because the new woman
I had started up with
who wound up costing me
a lot of money and grief
was threatened by the gift

white people
I among them
can be
so stupid





boycott plastic

there is no away
no place to throw
all that plastic
you throw in the trash
it's taken to the incinerator
and burned with the rest of the garbage
except that the plastic
combusted
gives off dioxin
a strongly carcinogenic chemical
into the air
which is breathed
by you
and those you love
and the rest of us also

one day
as it already is
in parts of Europe
packaging will be taxed

meanwhile
if everyone would just refuse
when they make a purchase
to accept
a plastic bag
that they don't really need
the world really would be a better
or at least cleaner place

as grandma said about cancer
it's something we do everyday
don't do it





briefly

last night
briefly in my dreams
it all became clear
quickly
sequentially
like dominos dropping in a row
and branching
everything fell into place
concept after concept made plain
a flurry of revelation
reason cascading in a geometry of truth
proportion and rhythm
uncertainty made sure
knowledge snapping together
pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fitting
exposing the bigger picture

last night in my dreams
it all made sense
the light of understanding
illuminating the darkness
wisdom shining
in a way which transcended
mere words and thought
exhilarated and at peace
briefly I witnessed a bit of infinity
the ongoing connectedness of being
strands of the web
underlying existence

briefly
and not the whole
the movement was glimpsed
in a dream
and not with eyes of flesh
this is how the truth is granted us
we could not survive any more

last night
briefly
in a dream
I saw
and then still dreaming
I saw no more





cattitude

the cat has nowhere to go
wandering between rooms
sleeping comfortably
on the pillow on the couch
occasionally venturing outdoors
she is in no hurry
the slayer and consumer of mice
her prowess confirmed
she has nothing to prove
glorying in her nature
confident in her existence
she wants nothing more
than to be what she already is
not content to lie in my lap
she meows now at my feet
disdainful of these feline observations





certainty

I believe in her
not more strongly
now that we have met
a faith
already perfect
admits no augmentation

that I have heard
the music of her laugh
imbibed
the cadence of her words
renders me
not more subject
to the spell
that was complete before

seeing
her eyes smiling
into mine
has not made me
more sure
I knew
the dream was real

and now
that she is gone
things are not
less or more
the star fell brightly
through the night
burning
in some exalted atmosphere
a love already certain
suddenly revealed
shining only briefly
on this earth

I am content
yet for a while
I hoped
that she
might stay





chess

the game demands
a lot of foresight
one must think
many moves ahead
each move
giving rise to
multiple possible
next moves
each of those possibilities
opening up its own set
of moves to follow
the choices increasing
exponentially
all the while keeping in mind
what your opponent might do
and he has
as many possibilities
(more or less)
as you do
there comes a time when even the best mind
cannot think anymore
and must move

all of this thinking
is guided by
the prime strategic factor
mobility
your pieces should be unblocked
free to move
this
of course
maximizes the possibilities
of where they might move
to defend
or do damage

these fundamentals
apply equally well
to life
think ahead
consider well all the possibilities
realizing that you can't think of everything
if you've got a great move
make it
if not
move in a way which
keeps your options open
maximize your freedom
to initiate
and respond
and oh yes,
enjoy yourself
while you're at it
remember
it's only a game





grace tower

poor folks
mostly old
mostly black
(in this building)
skip the elevator
to get some exercise
nine flights
to the tenth floor
mumbling prayers
up the dirty stairs
Mr. Ortega my first stop
door always open
beautiful Spanish anchor-women
on channel thirteen
explaining how it is
legs crossed under short skirts
beautiful view
out the window
over a branch of the Park River
and the surrounding woods
which somehow
so far
have escaped the city's development
he likes to walk
likes the snow
likes garlic, vitamin E and multis
then down the hall
to Mary H.
rods and pins and screw
and her foot won't heal
vitamins E and C
symphytum 30c
she has a jewish prayer book
proudly shown to me
from the family she assisted
when she was quite young
Donaldson down the end
only seems to be out of his mind
a heavy island accent
and a thick tongue
make it hard to understand
more than a couple of words per sentence
one time a day
okay mahn
down a floor at 905
Elsie needs a double dose of arnica oil
for her back
ever since I started using
those little bitty bottles
a big woman
my flirtations always leave her laughing
loudly
down on the eighth
Fredrick's got a television
with no picture
and the radio
playing loud
I've got to knock hard
or he won't hear
come on in
bones on the stove
cooking down into soup
a real man's room
like a cabin
back up in some Carolina woods
organized
without decor
efficient
like a workshop
his foot healed up real good
eight eleven
Miss Bey likes to play rummy
with her daughters
or granddaughters
or son
one hand with me
which she won 175 to 165
but I wasn't used to playing with deuces wild
at fifty points a piece
her arthritis is driving her to despair
seventh floor
Emma W. doesn't open her door
much anymore
I don't need nothing today
Elizabeth up the hall
has been through a lot
but remains philosophical
her wrist finally healing
after her fall
Ivory in 603
is almost as playful
as her little white cat
I think she gives him
the garlic I leave
the fifth floor I skip
because Miss Jones
I will have seen on my way into the building
at her security post
watching the door
coming down with a cold today
the fourth floor has Jesse
with his bottle of vodka
and those curious scars
all over his torso
like multiple stab wounds
which they probably are
a deep basso come on in
the door always unlocked
milk thistle for his liver
Miss Holden on the third floor
always laughing down the hallway after me
at my teasing
the arnica oil
fine for her aches
Miss Perkins on the second floor
like some baby whale
spread out in her chair
a child or grandchild always around
to answer the door
a nice lady
but there's too much of her
last there's the chief
on the first at the end
who always answers the door
with a big blade in his hand
hidden just a little
behind his behind
so that he's got the drop on you
even if you think
you've got it on him
emphysema's got him bad
but he's still smoking

long hallways
long stories
whistling down the corridors
carrying my big black bag
the herb doctor
the medicine man
vitamins and minerals
a story, a joke
a knock on the door
and a sympathetic ear
relieve a little suffering
delay the inevitable
then pack up my bag
and go





lawyers

it is easy to make the mistake of believing that they are human
their speech so calm and reassuring
you come to expect a human response
and just then
you are lost
anything you say can and will be used against you
right and wrong don't enter into the picture
it's all got to do with the plausibility of the argument
would you believe…?

their whole lives are reduced to positioning themselves
their spouses suffer their wrangling legal relativity
discussion prized over substance
the matter lost in billable hours
they should stick to marrying each other
and not give birth

it's just as easy to err in believing that the court system
has something to do with dispensing justice
maybe once upon a time it did
but the machine is overwhelmed
and it's all about expediency
getting rid of the tens of thousands of cases jamming the docket
anything goes
and everyone is guilty just for being there
for taking the judge's time
shoot them all and let G-d sort them out

and G-d help you if you don't have a lawyer
it's like a minefield without a map
you're bound to misstep
to miss some legal deadline or fine point
and then you're dead
and then they eat you
growing fat on your distress

you can believe what you want until you enter the system
then it hits you in the face like a wet, smelly towel

remember that old joke about lawyers and sperm
each having a one in a million chance of becoming a human being
don't believe it
the smart money's on the sperm





telemarketing

the phone rang
someone who couldn't quite pronounce my name wanted to speak with me
I'm Larry from MCI, how are you today?
let's not get into that.
I'd like to save you money on your long distance.
there's too much going on in my life to even think about changing my phone company.
well, because there's so much going on in your life you should think about changing your phone company.
look, Larry (I always try to remember the telemarketer's name),
you really don't understand
go onto the next name on the list
then I hung up
sometimes there's no easy way to say goodbye



love on the phone

one
does not return my calls
but
when she does pick up the phone
invites me over
transforming
the little she has
into much
and giving
it all to me

one
calls from a great distance
when I am away from the phone
and doesn't leave a number
she has very much
but
when she was
in the house
she wouldn't
or couldn't
share

one
engages me
in heartfelt conversations
but is shy
to come out
of her cloistered cell
she suffers her refinement
like an angel
trapped on earth
we have yet to touch

it's all so imperfect
and yet it's the best we can do
the phone
providing the illusion
of closeness
a voice
right in your ear
our crippled love
providing
the illusion of intimacy
so near
and yet so far





moods

morning's mottled sky
clouds covering
the sun
moody vapors condensing
congealing up
from the sodden earth
gray
with an occasional patch of blue
how often
the wind changes
strength or direction.
there is no way to tell
what the afternoon will bring






n.b.

she is a port of refuge
a calm harbor for my ship
a soothing voice on the other end of the phone
a smiling face greeting me at the door

I am guilty of taking comfort in her arms
sheltering there
in her free embrace
drunk on the love she so readily pours
guilty of the innocence of her affection
the fantasy of her being
her passion slipping into madness
her madness fitting neatly with my own

she is a bird
upon my open window's sill
a wild creature
regarding the interior
but unwilling to enter
at home in the open sky
there she circles against the clouds
now back to taste my seed
her heart beating rapidly
coming into my hands
rubbing her feathered body against my fingers
then off again

her waters yield wondrously
sweet and dark
to my sea-weary bow
what mysteries they conceal
I do not know
nor of them am I worth
but tossed by waves
this sailor craves
that deep and gentle berth





in the beginning

are there grades of infinity?
is infinity tripled
larger than infinity twice?
how big is big?
G-d created the whole universe
with just a few words
without lifting a finger
no sweat
no problem
now that's cool





it's all so disappointing

it's all so disappointing
so much less in the getting
distance makes the heart grow fond
carrots hanging from imagination's stick

but to once gain the proper perspective
to see ourselves so small
clinging barely to the planet
wildly hurtling through the darkness of infinite space

at twenty one it seems that one will live forever
for years unimaginable in their duration
she pulls away when I draw close
her concern keeps me at arms length
she doesn't commit, not even to the moment
making a great virtue of her independence
the law of separation
covering her face with her arms
turning her head away

we are, beyond all doubt, quite fragile
and lost without hope of finding
to be forgiven for taking shelter in embrace
and for forsaking that shelter
so much is lost in the translation
of dream into reality
poorly flesh holds fantasy
how could the fact compare with all the long anticipation?

I go along yet unconvinced
unsure I will recognize that for which I search
the cold finds its way into the soles of my feet
up into my thighs
lined up in a row

some great indecision
a mind which cannot be made
up around too little information
who am I to play the part, and yet there is no other
hope eclipsing fear
the imprudence of youth
the sure belief that spring will come
that death is just for birth
that somehow a poem will be born from these words upon a page



it is over

it is over
as such things end
leaving me wondering if it had ever begun
from the start it had been more me than her
crossing the divide
trekking where there was no path
never, it seems, arriving
the promise better than the getting
forcing the matter
victory without the sweetness

at first the wonder of her body was enough
full and new
and even now it sings to me
vanishing as I approach.
she practices the distance
far even when she is in my arms
she wears it like a badge
a trophy won by the prowess of reserve

I have had enough of inflation
of making things into more than they are
of pretending that people are better or other
of wanting them to do for me what they don't do for themselves

I can smell the food
but I can't get in the kitchen
the signs all say that I should go, or let her go
let go the tether and watch her drift away
pulled slowly by some subtle tide to nowhere, just away

we need so much more than we have
so much more than there is
the parts cannot be made whole
the damage done, without hope of repair
it is not possible to escape
we go to sleep hungry and dream of fullness

there is a song that in the singing ennobles the pain
a story whose telling comforts the heart and mind
a prayer which strengthens the birds in their flight
but now all is still and quiet



it's a slow process

it's a slow process
putting him to bed
lifting him up
off the coach
onto his feet
after the blanket is put aside
helping his hands find the walker
"I got it"
then the creep across the big room
short tentative steps
then balance
then move the walker
then more steps
starting and stopping
and starting and stopping
again and again
my hand on his back
to catch him
should he start to topple
to feel the critical imbalance
before it becomes visible
then through the kitchen
and a hundred and eighty turn into the hallway
starting and stopping
short, choppy steps
turning into the bathroom
gripping the grab bar by the toilet
"I got it"
down with his pants and diaper
off they come
change his shirt for a pajama top
and let him sit there for a while
while I go fetch the dry diapers
(he needs two on for the night)
if I'm gone for too long he'll call out asking
"can I have a dry diaper?"
his hands back on the bar
he pulls himself up off the pot
with a little boost
maybe he needs some washing up
a little or a lot
then the dry diapers go on
and the pajama bottoms
then we head out the door
holding onto the bars on the wall
into the hall
where he picks up the walker again
"I got it"
then a short walk
creep, creep, creep
turning into the bedroom
step, step, step
until he can back up
and sit down on the bed
help his legs up and his back down
pivoting him on his butt
until he's lying
spread the covers over him
and say our goodnights
night after night
and in the morning
it pretty much runs in reverse
it's a different sense of time
a different world
where everything's already done
already over
and there's no need to rush
nowhere to rush
it's a slow process
this awkward, final dance
minutes like days
days like years





january

a quarter full
the orange moon sets
a crescent boat
down through leafless trees
run aground on a distant hill
it sinks beneath the horizon
into the night's black sea





out west

she is on her way to Texas
she is already there
leaving Colorado
where she was out of place
for what promises to be
more hard work

planting trees sounds romantic
until the bag is slung
heavy across your back
on some inhospitable slope
hands already aching
before noon

she needed to wander
she needed to move
unsure why or where
leaving me behind
unable to compete with a dream

it's hard to know the end at the beginning
hard to know what you've got
until it's already too late
until it's gone
youth wastes
and is wasted

I sit at home and miss
her
or my dream of her
I am not sure
she was only ever half here
her mind in southern Utah
her heart in Africa
an apple or a peach
dangling out of reach
a flower that refused to bloom
it was hard
having her so close and far
easier somehow
to have her do her wandering
while she is away




readiness

it can't be done
neither can we stop
doing it
trying to do it
the impossible has its own appeal
sometimes you get close
near enough to feel it
just a little more
but always it refuses
to gel
to be brought down
the crystal should
but won't
precipitate
it's hard to sense it so clearly
to anticipate always
that which will not come
it's hard to be ahead
looking forward to a time
which is not ever yet

you can hear it in the music
there
just there
if we all come together
and sing
and hold hands
and believe
but the circle remains broken
pieces which will not be joined
spinning away

the house was prepared
the ceremony complete
purity of purpose achieved
still the expected one
did not arrive
always the bridesmaid
never the bride
sitting
all dressed up
with nowhere to go





seeing

focus shifts
the view
remains the same
but the viewing
is different
foreground and back
changing places
shadows and light
reconfiguring
new figures born
from the eye's realignment
unnoticed details
now prominent
old significances
lost
seeing is a learned process
an interpretive act
of brain and heart
subject
as is so much
to stereotype and habit

years ago
films were brought
out into the African bush
to edify the natives
who
fortunately or not
were unable to recognize
anything
among the dancing lights
on the two-dimensional screen

to see
without restraint
without the neural filters
which our survival-bound brain imposes
without the weighing and measuring
of preassumed importance
not through a glass darkly
that would be enough
and all

to recognize
that which we have overlooked
that which has been
all the while before us

the masters say
that enlightenment
is like the bright sun
in the clear blue sky
and that we keep asking
where is it?





shooting stars

she came to me
almost twenty-one years old
pure and disbelieving

unaware of the treasure
that was hers
she could not understand my longing
my intoxicated stumblings
under her perfumed spell;
raised among the godless
she could not accept my homage

she is off now
searching for something already hers
mailing me love poems
from someone else's pen

the dream seems so real
my body reacting in love's dance
to the impossible fullness of her being
as if her place were here among us
as if she were a woman
and not a shower of meteors
streaking across the sky





suburban adventures

the snow started at noon
falling heavy like a curtain
she came early for her 2:30 appointment
nutritional consultation
we had met at my restaurant
over a year ago
she used to come by regularly
once when the cook was AWOL
I made her her favorite dish
I remember what I felt
not what I said
it couldn't have been much anyway
I remember the way she looked
red wavy hair
delicate and refined
somehow not a part of the physical world
angelic
something she said
when she called to make the appointment
that she needed a note to continue physical therapy
and then that she'd be walking over
made me think that it was her
when she came
I was glad to see that I was right
she seemed happy to see me also
she told me she had kept my business card
in her wallet
it's good to make contact again
with someone I thought could be a friend
her cab didn't arrive at 3:30
as it was scheduled
which gave us more time to talk
but by 4:00 it obviously wasn't going to show
inconvenient
but you couldn't blame them in the storm
she needed to get home
and the cabs wouldn't come out in the storm
so we jump in my little toyota
and make it
about halfway up the driveway
she gets out and walks
which is okay
I don't want to leave it there
because they're going to come plow the driveway
and going back is impossible
so after getting stuck several times
I shovel ahead and burst out onto the avenue
before the city plows blocked the driveway exit

so now there's nowhere to park the thing
the avenue is half clear
just down the middle where the traffic flows
the side streets are worse
the parking lot
at the senior center across from me
where I usually park at times like these
isn't plowed yet either
as I discover when I pull in
the snow is falling in sheets
as I back out
I'm trying to make some forward progress
planning my next move
when I'm rear-ended
he's out of his car
and after exchanging a few words
I pull off the avenue
onto a side street
park
walk back
the guy berates me for backing out while he was coming
and when I ask him why he didn't see me and stop
claims that he tried to for forty feet
uphill
check out his car
some two inch square
lamp housing or reflector
has been knocked out of kilter
I give him my name and number
and a push to get him started


back to my car which is stuck
shovel and rock it out
down the street
turning onto another
which is even less plowed
back towards
almost making it to the avenue
when for some foolish reason
I stop
instead of carelessly pulling out
into the stream of
creeping along traffic
well one accident per day is enough
but now I'm stuck again
and the car just moves sideways
into the deeper snow
when I try to free myself
more shoveling
and as forward progress is impossible
I find myself able to move in reverse
back and forth
until my car has turned itself almost all the way around
and while I've still got some mobility
and nowhere else to go
I decide to ditch it
facing the wrong way
into a space left with left snow
because someone had parked there

a short walk back home
to the sauna I had started up
when I was stuck in the driveway
nothing like a good sweat
shower
dinner
out to check on the car
plowed into place with a lot of snow
back inside
a call to the cops
I'm informed by the woman who answers the phone
that I'm lucky they haven't towed me
and that I'm looking at a $35 dollar fine
if I leave it there overnight
figuring that I'll pay somebody less than that
to plow or pull me out
now
or in the morning
on top of the ticket
so back out
to where the brothers who run the market
next to where I'm stuck
have been clearing the walks
when their plowman drives up to take care of their parking lot
he agrees to try to help me get out
while he's surveying the job
the brothers looking at my poor car
ask one another whose it is
thinking maybe it's one of their customers
mine I claim
whereupon the younger brother produces
a heavy duty strap
hooking his truck to my car
and pulls me
up and over
the low wall of snow
that had me trapped

down the side street
under my own power
turn
turn
out onto the avenue
the senior center lot is clear
I find a space
kill the engine
and walk away
back to the brothers
thanking them
I notice that the guy stuck
up by the next corner
is trying to shovel out with a windshield brush
so I go offer him my shovel
turns out to be this school teacher
I've treated and socialized with
he digs out
and the brothers come over to help push him out
that's enough for me
slogging through the foot and a half of snow
to my front door
and inside
where the snow isn't falling

I'm glad I tried to help
the red-headed woman
(she called to tell me she made it home
and to make another appointment)
hopeless chivalry
I'm glad for the help from my neighbor
pulling me out of a jam
literally
it was good to be out in the snow
this afternoon
when there was some thunder and lightening
and tonight
when the quiet of the snow was deeper still

now it's midnight
and the snow has stopped falling
the challenges of the day are met and over
success
in small things
and a pleasant reacquaintance


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Metered Poems

 

Alchemy

The river does not leave its course
Nor waken from its bed
But dreams with all unerring force
Of oceans widely sread,

Titanicly the mountain broods
Its stoney crown enshrouded
Soft vagaries of misty moods
Have gravity beclouded,

Inviolable the star wheels turn
Through destiny's dark heights
As falling wayward angels burn
In meteoric flights,

Fickle the heart whose beating wing
Unreachable above
Has left me here earthbound to sing
My lonely songs of love.



The Laureate
for James Merrill

High-built walls of stony girth
Hold prisoner amorphous earth
Protecting with their cool, grey pardon
Recesses of that sunken garden,

Whose lawns were filled as every walk
By congregants to hear the talk
And render in that evening's shade
The poet greater accolade.

And there the aged laureate
Ensconced in a gazebo sat
A weathered Buddha wizened wise
Staring out with complacent eyes,

Over the throng who'd gathered round
Across the flowered and sculpted ground
Taking it seemed recondite pleasure
In rhythms with those walls did measure.

Then read his rhymes to their applause
An hour forced to take a pause
When with a cough his voice did harden
As cool night sank into the garden.

While all the while from treetop's towers
Indifferent to the poems and flowers
Unbridled nature's voice rang strong
As one bird sang its sunset song.

For poems are made like garden walls
In patterns wrought from what befalls
Enclosures fashioned poor or grand
From just whatever lay at hand.

Their words restraining shapeless earth
Have won a place of human worth
From nature brutal and sublime
Who little cares for mortal rhyme.



The Kabbalist

I have reached the end of thinking
And of things which can be thought
And my mind has finished drinking
In the answers I have sought.

I have found the sacred number
Through the secret of the counts
Learned to set free and encumber
By permuting the amounts.

I have pondered myst'ries scripted
In dense symbols writ aflame
And those cypher's I decrypted
So pronounced the holy name.

But each answer yields a query
Whose solution stands aloof
From the mind which does grow weary
In establishing its proof.

The end's wedged in the beginning
And the last is in the first
Loss accompanies each winning
And the best have been the worst.

As the holy is impious
So the sacred is profane
The mysterious is obvious
The mundane is most arcane.

Life's a riddle whose unraveling
I have searched to understand
While the object of my traveling
From the start was in my hand.



When The World Was Young

I loved you when the world was young
The day still wet with dew
When out of earth's warm womb life sprung
Bold, innocent, and new.

I loved you in that land of youth
Where care no furrows plowed
Where worry's drought was drowned by truth
And want was disavowed.

Where storm clouds never swept the sky
And sorrow held no sway
Where love and hope were wings to fly
And life a game to play.

But games do end and wings do fail
When storm clouds cruelly come
With rain to worry and assail
And snow to render numb.

Here now more wounded and more wise
That distant youthful shore
I see reflected in your eyes
And love you there once more.



If Only

The bird whose heart longs for the north
Compelled by nature's passioned force
Would follow fast it's homeward course
On sure and tireless wing
If only it were spring.

The serpent in its icy den
Would supple grow and writhe again
To bask reborn in sunny glen
Warm, soft awakening
If only it were spring.

Great rivers frozen in their bed
Would thawing tumble on ahead
Where joyously their waters wed
The sea's wide wandering
If only it were spring.

Then would the tightly whorled bud
Its veins engorged with life's sweet blood
Burst open in a scented flood
Love's lusty blossoming
If only it were spring.



Beware

Walking through the sea dry-shod
Staring at the face of G-d
Dancing on a lightening rod
Beware the slightest wink or nod
Your soul's already dazed and overloaded

Fed well on forbidden fruit
Plugged into the absolute
Digging for the hidden root
Bailing out without a chute
The ground you stood has all now been eroded

Speaking the unuttered name
Gazing at the sacred flame
There is nobody else to blame
The angel's touch has made you lame
You'd better leave before he has reloaded

Stone drunk on some holy wine
Starstruck in a hallowed shrine
You stand before the grand design
The awesome presence so divine
One false move and you will be exploded




Don't Reckon Dear

Don't reckon dear that far off goal
Which ever slips beyond control
Don't grieve the laurels yet unwon
Nor sorrow for the race not run

The flowers that refuse to bloom
The life that's locked inside the womb
Need not our plaintive dirgeful mourn
No requiem for the unborn

Too fast the fickle heart does fly
Too broad the compass of the eye
And most remains outside our grasp
Between life's first and final gasp

But mis'ry's rank and bitter fruit
Draws darkly from a deeper root
And pale all our infertile toil
Beside her black and bloody soil.



Early Spring

There's something of the early spring
Before the leaves have sprouted
When life's long promised offering
Unseen is yet undoubted

The earth's dark womb then growing warm
Awakens sleeping seeds towards form
Bestirring them from frozen dreams
To births in worlds where sunlight gleams

While flowered embryos lay curled
On leafless boughs foretelling
The blossomed swell of life unfurled
In bowers sweetly smelling

And sunbeams splashing on the lake
Into ten thousand shards do break
Igniting there like autumn's straw
The waters flush with winter's thaw

Then innocent imagining
Flies up on some great unborn wing
Before becoming turns to being
There in those early days of spring



Escape

Leave off the expectation of
Your frustrated ideals
Let heaven hover high above
With all that it conceals.

Renounce your noble search for truth
Those passionate forays
Of strategem and cunning sleuth
In living's endless maze.

From soft dreams of love awaken
From sleep whose promise swells
Phantom hopes of hearts forsaken
Sweet opiated hells.

Escape that frantic race with death
For that which doesn't rust
And savor well your mortal breath
Among the ash and dust.



Eurydice

Eurydice, come back to me
There is no song without you
Life broods in silent misery
Since cruel death closed about you.

Let poet's voice now find the verse
To free you from cold Hade's curse,
Let lyre's tune now break the spell
That keeps us in immortal hell.

Eurydice, come flee with me
The way is clear before us
Make haste while dark Persephone
Agrees yet to restore us

Rise up now like some grand phoenix
Take flight across the wine-dark Styx
While Charon waiting in his bow
A passage back does yet allow.

Eurydice, ascend with me
And keep your eyes ahead now
Lest turning we abysmally
Fall back among the dead now

Those wretched ghosts of life's decay
Who call us back towards disarray
And so distracted from our height
We gaze down on eternal night.

Eurydice, remember me
Although death has us parted
There in your somber reverie
I too am broken-hearted

'Though silence stays this poet's tongue
And sadness ends the joy once sung
Your hell below and mine above
Still echo with our tortured love.



Evermore

A place of quiet amidst the noise
The perfect rest of equipoise
Where I can savor heaven's joys
Washed up upon that shore
Elusive evermore.

The innocent embrace of love
A present from the gods above
Which far too fast did let go of
This mortal heart I wore
Forsaken evermore.

Some overarching paradigm
Which weaves the reason with the rhyme
Into a tapestry divine
That angels might adore
Evasive evermore.

A small respite from living's storm
A shelter from the maddened swarm
Where nocturne's mists may yet give form
To dreams dreamed long before
Receding evermore.



Flotsam

What tiny light is this to hold
Against the night's black tide?
What ray of hope that rises bold?
What vain and foolish pride?

Adrift upon this wine-dark sea
Small comfort to the touch
This flotsam of sad life's debris
These straws at which we clutch.

Enchanted by sweet Siren's song
We struggle through the waves
And buoyed so plunge on headlong
Into abysmal graves.

A candle in a hurricane
A bark on stormy swell
A promise sounding sweet in vain
Through oceanic hells.



Hopeful Hours

Those hopeful hours all laid to waste
Those years reclined in ruin
Those hollowed haunts of trust misplaced
Where love lies wracked and strewn.

Where mem'ry spreads its tattered shroud
Across the face of truth
Beguiling with its smoke and cloud
The innocence of youth.

Where disappointment stings the heart
Made numb to simple joy
Her comforts leached from every part
Through misery's employ

Where hunger feeds upon the soul
Whom poverty does claim
Where loneliness exacts its toll
Among the sick and lame.

Those shattered dreams, those fractured ghosts
Who taunt the living day
Exalt themselves with obscene boasts
Over this world's decay.


I Will Not Struggle

I will not struggle against night's sea
The dark, hollow waves which engulf me
No fear, no hero, no sad regret,
No futile opposition
I'm tired of swimming,
Tired of clinging to the shore,
Sand slipping through the hour-glass of my fists.
Be then my companion or my bride
I accept you whom I cannot refuse
I will set you a place at my table and a bed by the fire
Who has been more constant?
Who more familiar?
Come in, the light will not extinguish you
I cannot hope to civilize you who've made me wild
I have not failed to realize you who are my child.
The sun will rise again
And I will join in the song of that new day
But I will not hide from the darkness
From the pulse of the wild and the fangs of death
I have my own fierceness to protect me now.
Come and take my hand
I will not try to understand,



If Only Once

If only once the tireless sun
Rose brilliant in the east
And with that single day's course run
Its fiery orbit ceased,
Still endless night would be outdone
By memory's bright feast.

If starry veil but once was spread
Across the night's black vault
Then ever left the dark unwed
When that nocturne made halt,
Still men would follow where fate led
Unerring, without fault.

If just one time the moon grew round
Her beauty magnified
Then waning left the night uncrowned
A groom without a bride,
Forever we would drift spellbound
On that brief lunar tide.

If like a comet love burns bright
One night in ninety years
If heaven's grand immortal light
Shines once then disappears
If my beloved stays the night
And leaves as morning nears,
Still then my heart would be requite
Awash in wine-dark tears.



Indecision

In slow gray arcs the morning swung
Between sunshine and rain
Ambivalent the sky was hung
Quite restless 'twixt the twain.

Tossed high the seeded maple wing
Spins down towards forest floor
Then atmospheric wave does fling
It up to sink once more.

Vicissitude, the fruit begot
From passion's heated womb;
"She loves me," then, "She loves me not"
Torn petals from the bloom.

Uncertain there where roads do cross
Mark well each parting way
In choosing one the other's lost
As ever on we stray.



Like I Love the Sea

I love you like I love the sea
Your currents deep with mystery
Your tidal moods that ebb and flow
Away and back to me

I hold you like the perfumed night
Holds secrets far too pure for sight
Dark jungle flowers whose scented tales
No telling can requite

My heart struck by your lightning's fire
Explodes with thunderous desire
Your stormy winds rage through my soul
Consuming me entire

I love you with the twilit love
That homeward guides the wayward dove
I love you like the moon above
You are the stuff my dreams are of





Merely Life

If merely life might be enough
A diamond left uncut and rough
Whose beauty proud and plainly stands
Without the work of human hands.

Aloft among the faceless flocks
Find refuge from the eye that mocks
And urges on to higher heights
These wings more made for aimless flights.

Content to graze in fields of dreams
To harvest from fantastic schemes
The spices which help palate bear
The humbler tastes of common fare.

Then glory in the rising sun
And lie you down when day is done
Embracing all the joy and strife
Wove in this tangled web of life.



Olympus

Once fair Olympus came to earth
Once gods walked here with men
And scattered broad the seeds of worth
That fruits of their numen
Might ease the pangs of mortal birth
When off they flew again.

Bold Dionysus brought the vine
(Him whom the Maenads nursed)
And taught the art of making wine
To slake that human thirst
For visions of a world divine
Far from this land accursed.

Good Demeter of boundless grace
Gave free her golden grain,
At Eleusis that sacred place
Taught mysteries arcane
To sate the hunger of man's race
Here mired in the profane.

Of he who spread his mother's spell
Of Eros I would sing
Whose arrows caused the heart to swell
With love's imagining
And made sweet heaven of this hell
By virtue of their sting.

Yes once on earth Olympus trod
To raise the low estate
Of those formed from this ground's damp clod
Impressed by heaven's weight
With mem'ries of a passing god
To mitigate their fate.



Pity

Pity the heart that beats too long
Its unrelenting rhythmic song
Compelling with those sad refrains
This tired blood through tortured veins.

Beware the thoughts which dive profound
In waters where deep truths abound
Lest they uncover hidden there
Leviathan's titanic lair

Accursed that providential star
Whose fateful light leads us afar
Towards destinies which all betray
Our bright hopes held along the way.

For petty is the pride of man
And poverty consumes his span
Devouring every hour that's torn
From him much better left unborn.



Remnants

I live among the remnant flowers
Sown by the hand of youth
Which flourished here in fragrant bowers
Before the scythe of truth.

Among the few who stood the blight
That struck their sapling root
The lasting boughs whose frailness might
Yet yield some sparse-hung fruit.

Where come the storms whose ragings oft
Denude this verdant glade
That windswept wrath of heaven's loft
Makes poor my earthly shade.

Lost now the dreams of distant spring
Their falsehoods all laid bare
By seasons which in passing bring
A harvest of despair.



Autumn

Red now the leaves and yellow-gold
That out of summer's green explode
Upsetting with their wild rampage
The lush growth of a younger age

Those leaves which fluttered in one place
In falling find a deeper grace
And casting off without regrets
Set sail in perfect pirouettes

Quick squirrels scurry 'cross the floor
Of forests to increase their store
And fatten on the small acorn
From which these mighty oak are born

Those birds which idled on the breeze
Directionless with wayward ease
Encouraged by day's shrinking light
Find purpose now in southward flight

And now on bough and curling vines
Where blushing ripeness brightly shines
That fruit which hung aloof and chaste
Yields lustily its richest taste

Sweet flesh enclothed by supple skin
Sustaining seeds of life within
The subtle pulse of fertile womb
Beneath this swollen harvest moon

Bold autumn wields its brazen brush
Transforming with that Midas touch
A world too steady, staid and old
With leaves of red and yellow-gold.



Resignation

I've learned to feed on solitude
To nourish from my own
In famine dire to take as food
The flesh from off my bone.

I've learned to live beneath the waves
To float amidst the weeds
To drift among these sodden graves
Suspended in the reeds.

I've learned the silence of the mute
The cry without a sound
That deafens heart and renders moot
The poignant and profound.

How then dare light disturb my night
This lot which I have drawn
With thoughts I might yet glimpse the sight
Of rosey-fingered dawn.




Self-Immolation

Writhing in self-immolation
It helps not to disclaim
The fiery price; revelation
Engulfs my life in flame.

I did the things best left undone
Grave warnings were all spurned
And flying too close too the sun
My feathered wings were burned.

I've cheated death one thousand times
Gone now that golden wit
Which lit my way one thousand climbs
Up from this sulphured pit.

Yea I have compassed heavens vault
And plumbed the depths of hell
And 'though my burning proves my fault
Still few can burn so well.



Simple Things

Things are much simpler than they seem
A dream is after all a dream
Love lost is lost, be sure of this
A kiss is nothing but a kiss.

Emotions which dive dark and deep
Or clamber cliffs abruptly steep
Make poor and breathlessly confound
A heart attuned to level ground.

Grant fantasy an open rein
Imagination wide domain
Still in the end their strength must yield
As sober doubt retakes the field.

The ornate spiralings of youth
The riddles which embroider truth
Unravel their profound estate
In certainties laid hard and straight.

Untempered expectations waste
The moment far best proved by taste
Let tongue be judge and palate savor
And come what may know now the flavor.

Yet I once drunk on love's sweet wine
Dared hope to make that vintage mine
Still all my dreams can't make it so
There's nothing more to say, please go.



Small Reptiles

Your hands small reptiles soft and warm
Lie basking in the sun
Press firmly now their pulsing form
Then lithely dart and run.

Your breasts two fragrant mounds of spice
Piled on some perfumed shore
Intoxicants whose scents entice
Me towards a dark amour.

Your voice cascades, clear mountain streams
Into a sylvan pool
Whose eddies weave sonorous dreams
From waters deep and cool.

Yours are the passions of the wild
The fierce tongues of love's fire
And mine the heart on which you smiled
Now burns hot with desire.



Summer's Night

She came upon a summer's night
My thoughts made soft by wine
A dream or vision borne in flight
Upon a breeze divine.

My soul lay hushed, wondrous, and weird
Transfixed by lunar tide
Upon my bed as she appeared
Within my window wide.

A jungle cat with restless eyes
I felt her heated breath
And watched her move, her muscles wise
Like one whose tasted death.

A sleek strong mare with wild black mane
And flesh made sweet by sweat
Who'd known no human touch nor rein
Yet my hand she did let.

And I mad fool whose phantoms fade
Like dew before the sun
Still in that land of dream and shade
With her my soul does run.



Ten Thousand

Ten thousand voices has the breeze
All whispering they tell
A storied love to rustling trees
Who fall beneath their spell

Eternally the mountain lifts
Its face up towards the sky
As heaven parting with her gifts
Drifts cloudy kisses by

The babbling rush of rippling stream
Incessant overhead
Intoxicates the stones who dream
Contented in her bed

There is no end to nature's art
But I whose days are few
Must sing with mortal tongue and heart
A storied love for you



The Sacrifice

Beneath gray clouds of tufted wool
The day hung fattened, rank, and full
Swollen with its pregnant pull
Like some gigantic tethered bull.

Spun from those clouds so darkly fleeced
A damp wind lumbered from the east
As its wet labored weight increased
A burdened sacrificial beast.

Then some great blow of awe and pain
Broke through that atmospheric strain
Bled from the clouds their shrouds of rain
The mighty bovine has been slain.

So sound the curled and festive horn
Which some proud head did once adorn
Yet in your mirth this you may mourn
That just from death new life is born.



To A Friend Of My Youth

Then well we wore those wondered years
When manhood's buddings bloomed
And beckoned on from childhood's cheers
Towards where life largely loomed.

Then billowed with the blush of youth
Our sails sought distant seas
For treasures of a pirate truth
And love along the lees.

Yes boldly bore we banners high
Unfurling in the sun
The derring-do of deeds to try
On journeys just begun.

And now dear friend my sails still set
My head already gray
Rejoices yet in one well met
One wondered yesterday.



Utopia

Utopia your scented shore
Wafts sweetly 'cross the ocean's roar
Perfumes that make tired sailors brave
The frothing pitch of churning wave

Arcadia's warm rustic breast
Whereon the grapes of faith are pressed
Exudes a vintage which inspires
Those huddled cold 'round distant fires

The rivers which from Eden flow
Bring promises of long ago
And hope that prayer may yet placate
The firery angels at her gate

Those dreams which outlast morning's dew
Embolden us to struggle through
And search among day's sacrifice
For sleep's elusive paradise



What Hell Is This

What hell is this that follows me
Whichever way I fly
A darkness over all I see
A shadow ever nigh

A cloud that comes before the sun
Eclipsing golden rays
An umber haunting all things done
Until the end of days

A thief who sneaks in from the night
And leaves the heart a husk
Replacing heat and bloody might
With cool vapors of dusk

Each passing day my torment worse
No charm to break the spell
No flight of refuge from this curse
For I myself am hell.



Without Disguise

I held you once without disguise
When pain broke down our fear
And from the longing in your eyes
Dared draw your body near.

You are the fluid scent-filled wind
Which flooded me one night
The raven dark immortal wing
Which brushed me in its flight.

I am the fool who dreamt and pray
That we might stay asleep
Than meet the false light of the day
That robs us of the deep.

There are more winds and wings and dreams
And other tears to cry
I loved you well (or so it seems)
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.



Without Words

Against this augered sky
The homeward flight of twilit birds
Reveals mute reasons why
The simplest things are without words.

Hushed voices of the breeze
Here wafting through the trees do each
Conspire in symphonies
Their zephyrous tongues too pure for speech.

Night's star-encrusted vault
Whose turning's spin fate's silent web
Weaves merit with the fault
The flush of fortune with the ebb.

Coy heaven's cryptic signs
But quietly reflect on earth
Those elegant designs
Of simple and unspoken worth.



Deepest Night

I sing the praise of deepest night
The hour of the witch
When shards of reason's failing light
Mire in nocturnal pitch.

Gray phantoms in that umbra haunt
Enchanted atmosphere
And make things once familiar daunt
The common seem quite queer.

Black fear whose damned and deadly art
Allows no disavowal
Does seize upon the timid heart
And sicken in the bowel.

Hollow the hopes which once flushed full
Day's dreams which once swelled proud
Now wither in the lunar pull
Beneath dark shadow's shroud.



Homage

This emptiness, this deep black hole
This hunger gaping wide
That swallows heart and breath and soul
Remains unsatisfied.

This silence which makes destitute
Each song and word and cry
Does deafen ear and render mute
Each voice which would defy.

This stillness with its spastic rein
And sharp unyielding bit
Does flesh and spirit both restrain
All motion made forfeit.

And death which holds all life prey
Our master and our host
Removes from us each passing day
And makes of it a ghost.



Twilight

See how the solar orb has set
Behind that distant hill
It's skyward beauty falling yet
Below broad heaven's sill.

See how those rays which once ranged free
Now gather towards the west
As they from growing shadows flee
Like sparrows to their nest.

Like sailors drawn down by their ship
Into a sunken grave
Those wrecked remnants of daylight slip
Beneath horizon's wave.

See that last embered indigo
Yet dimly phosphoresce
The final breath of afterglow
Expired in night's caress.



rapture

your beauty flowers like a rose
your gypsy eyes, your lips, your nose
the perfumed scent around you

the way you move, your hair, your clothes
the deepest grace of nature shows
there perfectly upon you

red petals in the ratios
your softly-spoken words compose
sing symphonies about you

your bud unfurling swells and grows
and does to reverent eye expose
dark mysteries within you

pierced by the thorns of love's arrows
the redness of my life-blood flows
quite happily before you





pefect metaphor

it seems a perfect metaphor
to me here sitting on this shore
the fountain rising from this pond
and all of life do correspond

up from the water's tranquil face
with fluid geometric grace
a hundred streams arc wide through space
then plunge back in a frothy lace

it's not the droplets, sunlight kissed
refracting rainbows through their mist
to crown late summer's lazy bliss
although life too has some of this



golden peach

is not your golden peach ripe now
nestled in the crotch of your limbs
does not its blushing flesh crave my tasting
the embrace of my lips
to drink in little sips
the sweetness beading up upon it

does not your secret place now yield
the perfumed urge that draws me on
the lusty scent of honeyed sap
the river of delights
whose fragrances excites
and bids me come yet closer

is now not time to share at last
nature
to part that soft and fuzzy skin
to lick the lusciousness within
your nectar dripping down my chin
from fountains deep inside you


Back to top

 

Family Poems

 

Gone

The signs are disappearing
The cars, the road, the walks
The flowers are disappearing
One plant after another
Security guards come into view and vanish
First the man and then the woman
The doors are gone
Now row by row the brick wall evaporates
The woman walking across the parking lot, gone
Her little one trailing along, gone
(The wind blows)
Cloud by cloud the sky is erased
Three garbage cans disappear, one returns
The woman security guard reappears, but the wall on which she leans on is gone
It's all just drying up
Trees and doctors and a lifetime ending
The gate is gone, the fence, the struggle to survive
Birds disappear
The deli across the street returns to nothingness
The driveway is gone
The entrance cannot be found
Bicycles and riders are lost
Failures, nightmares and dreams dissolve
Men carrying boxes to a van disappear
Then the van
Grievance and disappointment
Hunger, longing and loss,
Gone, gone
Neighborhoods, family and the tortured march of years vanish
Summer, then September, gone
(Still the wind blows)
Childhood's last foolish embers are extinguished
Trash blowing through a vacant lot disappears along with the lot
Grass and children and leaves already colored and falling, gone
God and country and the way, bombs falling, all finished
Lines, edges, curbs, dogs, crap tables, business deals, card games, long drives, arguments, sevens, elevens, the slow burden of being, windows, roofs, columns, hospitals, gone
And this poem, all gone.



family portrait

a visiting friend
picked up a photo
of me
my father
and two of his brothers
and grunted ominously
uh oh!
when I identified the grizzled old men in the picture

yes, you have no idea what I have overcome
I was not always as you see me now
still the legacy is with me
the family inheritance
that ruined my brother
and worries my sister
I am not immune
but I've got a handle on it
I've learned how to hold on
how to compensate
how to get in and out of the way
I've got my eyes open
and I can admit I'm wrong
I'm watching for it
looking for those blind spots
like Socrates I know that I don't know
and maybe that's the only kind of wisdom allowed

that photo is still on the counter
where my friend found it
a strength in their faces
those men who came before me
a toughness I can only admire
old school
they cleared the way
so that I can look back
only vaguely aware
of the traumas of the past
I
there in the picture
smiling among them





barking up the wrong tree

there is no understanding available
her words and actions
are incompatible with relationship
this is clear
to all who have left before me
siblings, children, grandchildren
friends
no one visits
no one calls

I too would have already left
except for the old man
her husband
my father
who at eighty-three
after a disabling stroke
can no longer defend himself
against her strange brand
of attention
and that I live
in the apartment upstairs

she is compelled to prove her oppression
inflexible in her failing routine
going down with the ship
following the dictates of a schedule
where ten minutes are critical
so that he must eat his breakfast
by 9:30 and not 9:45
while the rest of their day
lies before them without
appointment or constraint

performing her duties with the greatest resentment
unable to establish a common bond
to feel the basic ties of family
or humanity
nursing the once-proud man
like a disobedient child
reprimanding
resenting his incapacity
resenting my assistance
embarrassed by the proximity
into which his illness has drawn us

it is not the yelling
coming up the stairway
penetrating the floor
her anger blending
with the struggle to overcome his deafness
it is not the rigidity
insisting that things
despite their persistent noncompliance
should happen her way
that circumstance
should accommodate her point of view
and not the other way around
it is
the viciousness
erupting when her vulnerability is exposed
the attacks which fly back
from my offers to help
pouncing when I move
to take the thorn from her paw

there is
I see now
no way
to bridge the gap
my attempts to move close
register as a threat to her aloneness
my assistance
contradicts her frustration
and she doesn't like to be
contradicted
the river will not
turn around
there is no help for it
never much of a mother
she is less so now
I am the fool
for still wanting to be
her son





no more a child
for Sefira

to see you there near fully grown
still ours, but now not ours alone
a fledgling freshly from the nest
departing on a winged quest

a treasure of enduring worth
an angel better than this earth
a Shining Blessing from above
who shows us how to truly love

time is a mistress bittersweet
whom human heart cannot entreat
still there's no chance to mourn what's passed
with you new joys rush in so fast

we thank you for just being you
and wish G-d's help in all you do
your kindly eyes, your knowing smile
have made our lives more than worthwhile




36 Sommerset Drive

goodbye emily smunck's old house
goodbye bethany's old house
goodbye place where you buy thanksgiving turkeys
goodbye governor's horses

goodbye pine grove school
goodbye buckminister fuller
goodbye middle school
goodbye hill where we used to sled
goodbye house with the nice flowers
goodbye church of satan
goodbye
goodbye
goodbye



the day that was (not necessarily in order)

dad's diaper changed
my mother
angrily refuses my help
struggling up the stairs with her bundles
the former tenant
threatened with the intervention of the police
finally brings back
my massage table
the takeout menu for the restaurant
is composed and copied
I pay the parking ticket
down at city hall
picking my daughter up from school
we go shopping for sunglasses
two pair for three dollars
later
crying in her dark room
she tells me to close the door
my lawyer
leaves a message
about a "productive" conversation
with the US attorney
letters are mailed
the ex-wife is counseled
about legal problems
and confides her disease
the news is gathered
a story read
the e-mail account is purged
prayers are recited
the darkness of night
is regarded
outside my window
the cat stretches and yawns
upon her pillow
past midnight
it is already tomorrow
and time to sleep




the ghost is given up

the ghost is given up
incrementally
so gradually that it is not possible
for me
who visits every day
to see the change
yet I remember him
not so long ago
a different man

gradually he passed beyond words
he who never did too much talking anyway
what was left to say was parsed out
a phrase or two every second or third visit
words somehow superfluous to our silent understandings
our inviolate communion of the flesh
left hands clasped as men exchange greetings and goodbyes
but motionless on the bed next to his crippled body
our modest embrace
as day by day
I mumble over him Hebrew psalms
too far from his good ear for him to hear
finishing the book month by month
"it's October," I tell him
"the Yankees are in the World Series"
"everybody is okay
you can go if you need to"
as if he needed my permission to die

not so long ago he would manage a short phrase
in response to my story
"you're learning"
then later a word
when on leaving to go to work
I told him as he used to say,
"I've got to go fight the dragons,"
"go," he said releasing my hand
now he lies there
his good hand limp in mine,
mostly gone, mostly gone
his eyes barely opening
his lungs barely able to draw in and expel the breath
I know that he still appreciates my hand rubbing his chest
but there is no sign of it
he is already far away
his body no longer able to contain the soul

not so long ago
I had a vision of his mostly disembodied soul
reproving me for my sadness and my tears
disapproving of my sentimentality
reassuring me in that tone that always meant
I should have known better
should have known already, without being told
reassuring me that everything is okay
that the inevitable is inevitable
that the indignity of decay is the usual way
ancient Mesopotamia
brightly colored autumn leaves
the biggest fish
the truest heart
everything turning to manure
"you're learning"

the strength has not entirely left him
the flame still clinging to the wick
after the wax has all been consumed
setting an example of strength to the last
a quiet, hopeless dignity
"be strong,"
his ghost mostly given up admonishes me
"be strong,"
his stoic face commands
embarrassed as he always was
by such displays of emotion
"be strong,"
but still I can't stop crying.



he is dying

he is dying
this man who gave me birth
even as the seeds he carelessly tossed my way
yet sprout and bear fruit
the cryptic messages which stuck in mind
that in my youth
I took for an old man's cynicism
but now I take for truth
like some blind, lame bear he stumbles across the floor
to or from the toilet, table, bed
wanting nothing more
than to be led
to a warm place to lie
and a little bread

this pathetic resolve to go on when there is nothing left
when all that remains undone remains undone
nothing lost or won
no place left for hope



mother's frustration

she yells because he's hard of hearing
because what's wrong cannot be fixed
because justice has not been served

she complains not because she wants help
but because complaint is all that's left to her
everything
the man next door who cuts the lawn and plows the snow
husband, daughter, son and sisters
newspaper delivery and contents
the quality of bananas
certain brands of disposable diapers
everything is a cause of complaint
an opportunity for complaint

not that she wants assistance
she prefers to go it alone
possessing advanced training in a host of scientific disciplines
I am still not qualified to run her washing machine
it is not a lack of practical solutions
it is simply that he should not wet the bed
that he continues to do so is for her a personal affront
she knows the way things should be
her way

we have been brought together again after decades apart
over an old man's illness
husband and father
who always had himself been difficult to get along with
passive now he presents different problems

but mother's still playing by the old rules
a former world, imagined somehow as better
her vision blinds her to another point of view
unable to accept the concept of team
calling all the shots
she is sure that the failure is someone else's
the emotional gulf cannot be leapt
too much lies between
cooperation too foreign an idea
the medicine is on the shelf
the cure within reach
is wasted
because she didn't think of it





father

twilight came first to his bedroom
on the east side of the house
the day leaking out
through shear curtains
between the blinds
eight PM at the end of August
summer already broken
the cool of autumn
the cool of evening
yet to come
him wanting to talk
there lying in bed
tucked in beneath a pink sheet
wanting some reassurance
that he would not be
left behind
I sat next to the bed
pulling up a small chair
on which I had never sat before
and spoke loudly
leaning over him
speaking to his good ear
worried he was
that he would be left alone
blind as he is and crippled by the stroke
that the house would be sold
and his position rendered precarious
"When I go you're coming with me"
I assured him
"That's good to hear"
he relaxed
imagining that he had a million dollars
imagining that he was fifty
and not eight-three
"If you don't tell me things, I won't know what's happening.
It gets light. It gets dark. I just lie here.
It's all the same."
and so I told him some family news
about my daughter
his granddaughter
visiting Cape Cod
about to start high school
and he listened

not so much to the content
as to the telling
his hands
under the sheet
fiddling with the plastic diaper.
he never talked very much
never asked for help
his infirmity forcing us to explore
the uncharted lands
between us
I am reminded
to be more attentive
to care
in other ways for him
he needs more company
he doesn't want to be left so alone
he's asking
which is a big step for him
there sitting
as dusk fills the room
I feel the moment becoming a memory
taking significant space in my brain
already I am nostalgic
looking back
on the moment
which has not yet passed
tears brimming my eyes
taking my hand from his shoulder
I stroke his thick white hair
and wish him good night





good boy

he is like a baby
wearing diapers
needing someone to move the spoon
from the plate to his mouth
to wash and dress him

the stroke hit six years ago
scrambling his vision and balance
82 years old
he walks now
only with assistance
our hands gripping each other's arms
as I shuffle backwards down the hall
leading him on
his steps hesitant
uncertain
afraid to fall
he often leans back
resisting my forward pull
he needs a great deal of encouragement
to get beyond his two-steps-and-stop routine
to keep his legs moving in a continuous rhythm
"don't stop, don't stop
keep those legs moving,
that's it, good
be brave
good job"
and this morning
for the first time
"good boy"

and this morning
interlocked in our awkward dance
appreciating the irony
of calling my white-haired father
a good boy
I understood
that that was something new
from the stories of his childhood
and the memories of my own
I understood
that such easy praise
had never been his
no one had held him and called him a good boy
he was no stranger to admiration
but the compliments offered him
were poorly received
and there at the root of his toughness
of his isolated independence
there this lack
of animal warmth
and simplest affirmation

and it seems somehow
a perverse perfection
that he should be rendered now
so dependent
and returned
as it were
to a childhood deficient
to make good that lack
even after the fact
the fundament of love
here where the end
folds back to beginning





crippled waltz

It is a crippled waltz we do. My father and I. Facing. His hand gripping my shoulder. Mine, passed snuggly under his armpit, anchored across his back. Our other arms clasping each other at the elbow. Like crabs learning to waltz, steps hesitant and halting. I attempting to provide the balance and vision he lost four years ago to the stroke. Shuffling backwards, leading his tottering, eighty-two year old, once-powerful frame forward down the hallway. His desire to "take it easy," to lean away from me, to stop, his fear of the now-awkward, rhythmic momentum of walking, his fear of falling greatly compounding the risk.

There is always the wheelchair. Mother, herself over eighty, uses it to move him when I am away, when she is on her own in the middle of the day, after I have helped him up from bed and performed his toilette with him and led him in our music-less dance to the breakfast table, until I come in the early evening collecting him from the couch to change his diapers and put him to bed. But walking, however imperfectly performed, is a sign of life the old man and I struggle to maintain.

We live, almost together, in a Neo-Victorian house which time has rendered elegant. A two-family house on the former site of the Vanderbilt estate; the mansion consumed by fire shortly after it was finished more than one hundred years ago left only the gatehouse standing even now anonymously beside our own. My practice is on the first floor; my parents are on the second; the third floor, once cramped servants' quarters, was remodeled into my airy abode through the addition of a kitchen and the removal of eighty feet of wall. Following my divorce, in a therapeutic move, I took an axe and started swinging, breaking down the walls. My westward view, through a twelve foot expanse of glass stretches over tree and roof tops for miles out to what in these parts we take for a mountain. Unimpeded the breeze always finds us; the winds sometimes flapping the artwork on the walls.

The neglect which as a boy I suffered from my parents now renders our proximity convenient. In excess of my daily duties my privacy is only rarely interrupted by mother's call up the closeted stairs asking for assistance or offering part of her dinner or more frequently by a note of crisis, heard through the floor, in her frustrated tirades against my father and his incapacity. I am able to visit and leave with no great ado. Intervening and escaping like the Israeli secret service, in and out. I am, outside of my fixed filial obligations, able to entertain and carry on the life of an independent, free-standing adult.

Of course, those "fixed filial obligations" amount to a grand proviso. Changing my daughter's diaper, if less than charming, was natural; changing my father's is another matter all together. As has been interacting with my overstressed, ridiculously independent mother, who until recently considered any but her own, however ineffective, solution to a problem to be an intolerable compromise. Impervious to criticism, suggestion and assistance she would, in feats of negation which rivaled the greatest magicians, make me disappear; tearfully screaming, even as I was cleaning up the matter at hand, that no one helped her.

Things with mom are recently not so dire. Suffering her emotional needs has become less taxing then caring for my father's physical ones. The old man's decline is hard for her in ways different than it is for me; a husband vs. a father.
Futilely, imposing order on the decompensation. Insisting on a silly punctuality, that we run our lives according to this man who doesn't have one anymore, who doesn't know if it's morning or afternoon, midday or midnight. Doing too much for him and turning irate when her efforts are rebuffed or unappreciated. Trying to mend a relationship which for so long, even before his stroke, was beyond mending. Wrestling with the sure, inevitable approach of death.



The old man fades

the old man fades
returning from the hospital after a week away
a few pounds gone from his frame
weaker, less steady on his feet

the inevitable shows itself with even greater clarity
positioning itself more prominently
the lead horse in the home stretch
a guaranteed winner

necessity provides the direction
we do what we have to do
somehow getting the strength
mustering resolve to keep him home
to hoist him from the chair and clean his bottom while he holds the bar
a fresh diaper then off to bed

he's happy to be back
in his own house and chair and bed
without the catheter and IV
this ghost of a man
still clinging to life

can't see, can't balance, right side impaired
weak
dependent as he hasn't been since he was a young boy
softer now this tough old man
a wise guy like from the movies
Bogart and Edward G. Robinson and W.C. Fields with a style his own
just traces of the old fight left in him now
he needs people now in a way he never did before
or never admitted he did
forced into it, he's discovering some new terrain
blind and lame he floats along

a young boy he was already stealing fruit from the pushcarts to feed the family that his father couldn't
the younger brothers and sister and mother
depression times he lied to his mother about how he got the food or she wouldn't take it
then he learned how to throw the dice
learned better than most he bet against
which numbers came up and which didn't
gambling until the stroke made him stop

he sits now, a silent buddha
supremely withdrawn
habiting a world of his own
dreaming without the need to wake
beyond all common concerns
the thousand details of living
out of the game
waiting for nothing in particular
waiting for nothing
sooner or later it will claim him completely

mother copes
only she knows how
focusing on the physical tasks at hand
her emotions are unclear
to me and to her
the surface of a lake rippled by the wind
concealing the depths
shattering the reflection of what?
she breaks down periodically
crying for comfort, for relief, for things she cannot say
her imperfect companion of fifty plus years
needing her in ways not before
failing her again and newly
she is strong, with the strength of a different age
when times demanded more of us
before we were lulled by the convenience of modernity
no choice

I help consistently
getting him up in the morning and to bed at night
shaving and showering
washing his hands and face and whatever else needs it
a baby's is one thing
but changing your father's diaper changes you
turns something around
deep inside.
never much one for physical contact
I've touched him more these last four years
than in all the years before
helping him to his feet or rarely up the stairs
holding him steady in and out of the shower
guiding him from behind down the hallway with his walker
steering, keeping a hand on his back, catching the occasional stumble
aborting the fall
off his feet for a week he's shakier than before
but we'll try to get him back using that walker
expecting too much or not enough

about a week before the ambulance took him away he woke calling out in the middle of the night
lying there with his hand on his bare belly he proclaimed with religious conviction
"the touch of flesh on flesh rejuvenates"
again and again.
I held his sleeve-covered arm and he insisted as he took my hand in his
"it must be flesh on flesh"
I knew then that I must give him the massage I had been intending
but somehow amid the mundane urgencies of life I never found the time.
in the hospital I rubbed his back and neck
occasionally finding "the spot."
now that he's home I won't delay

do and say what needs to be said and done
and don't take all day about it
like the man said
"if not now, when?"
the chances are there if you take them
but often there aren't any second ones
and even then they don't last too long.
put your money down and roll the dice,
papa needs a new pair of shoes.



lost and found

they were right were I left them
but just where that was I couldn't say
no one to blame but my self

yesterday it snowed all day
the first snow of the season
this morning
on my way to meet my daughter
I turned around because I thought
in addition to playing in the snow
we might go skiing together

the cross country skis
easy to locate
were already in the car in the car
and I was
without much luck
looking for the boots that went with them
typically they lived in the old pantry
but I had partially cleared out that cluttered space
moving items to new locations
but now the logic of that redistribution was lost to me
at least regarding the shoes
where had I put them?

I'm late and getting later
for breakfast and the day
tearing through every closet in the place
unwilling to surrender even after forty minutes of failure
looking for a sign
an inkling
an idea of where they might be

meet mom in the basement
doing her laundry
and she asks if I've looked down there
I've just asked G-d to help
very rarely bother Him about specific problems
especially such trivial ones
so I figure maybe He's speaking through mom
one more look through some relocated pantry items
piled on a skid
and there inside of an overturned paper bag
are those funny-looking, black and white boots

relief and a kiss on her cheek
and minutes later
in the car
while I'm speeding to my destination
I remember the comfort and assurance I took
as a child
from my mother's seemingly magical ability to locate things
she knew
she helped me find what I was looking for
it was good to find the ski boots
it was good to find again that confidence in my mother
it gives me hope that one day I'll be found
probably right where I left me



holding on

the dog needs to be put down
too old and arthritic to make it up the stairs on her own
can't control her bladder
pissing all over the floor
she looks up worried
with knowing, sad, brown eyes
what a bitch.

dad is in much the same condition
sitting in diapers on the couch
balance and vision lost
his physical disability rendering him
quieter still
not any more eager to die than the dog
clinging to whatever little life that's left
euthanasia not an option for him

after a drought of six weeks
it's rained seven days running
farmers can't get out into the fields
to replant spring crops
already dead from thirst
too little then too much

she had cancer
a recurrence of something from years before
after the chemo her hair fell out
started to grow back
then fell out again
then her furnace stopped working
and her roof started leaking
then her brother-in-law
with whom she was quite close
died.
I held her
there on her living-room floor
her drunken misery creating the entry
that had always eluded me
eluded us
before
held her and rubbed her
until she came back from the brink
until the life which flowed again
through her battered body and mind
made it so she wanted
at least a little less
to die

my mother
tending her sick dog and husband
finds it hard to carry on
her nerves are stretched tight
snapping into anger
unable to sleep
frequently she breaks down into tears
having imagined a more dignified ending to her life
than piles of shit and pools of piss
the unpleasantness of life's decay

and I know now
how nothing comes to matter
how the joy only lightly touches the heart
and all the good appears to be
only a children's game
a make-believe
the eye having seen too much
the heart too often broken.
I am afraid
that love is some vast inhuman thing
which burns as much as it heals
afraid that everything the old man said
with or without words
is coming true
afraid to see both him and the dog
wanting only the occasional bowl of food
and a warm, quiet place
to hold on





apparitions

the green is leaving
uncovering the red and gold
of autumn's touch
the oranges and yellow

Friday
two nights before my father died
he came to his sister in a dream
to tell her he was dying
his baby sister
the youngest in the family
of which he was the oldest
ten years his junior
was there anyone he loved more?
seventy-five
across the continent
incommunicado for six or eight years
she did not even know he was sick
until the dream
waking hurting at 4am with the wind howling
one of their brothers emailing her
two sad days later
that he was dead

and when I tell my sister this
she tells me that our father
also came to her
was there anyone he loved more?
Saturday night
to tell her he was dying

I saw him Sunday morning
my visits to the nursing home increased to twice a day
as the end drew near
his hand limp in mine that morning
and was planning to return
when the rabbi asked me that evening to go to a kitchen
to make sure the cooks weren't mixing the milk with the meat
to relieve the watcher who had been there since the morning
and sitting there
as potatoes were frying and hens were being stuffed
for the big dinner next evening
sitting with next to nothing to do
I found a pad and took my pen
and wrote the poem I knew I had to write
I knew I had to write for weeks
but hadn't
and there among the banter and the humor
and the trays and trays of preparation
the walk-in and the ovens
the ranges and the deep fryers
the Spanish and the sinks and the broken eggs
I wrote it
with tears
(always ready this last year)
rising to my eyes
letting the words find their own way
up from my heart
until it was finished
9:45pm
at ten after ten I was relieved
came home and on a hunch called to check on dad
to be informed matter-of-factly
(is there any unawkward way to say it?)
"The nurse tried to call you. He's passed on."
he died at 9:45
days earlier
in simple words
I had already told him
speaking loudly into his better ear
"everything is okay. you can go if you need to."
but I think the poem convinced him

we buried him
two days later
on a sunny Tuesday
the last days of October
at noon
the green sap of life drained away
the leaves freed of their purpose
exploding in their outrageous colors
just beginning to fall from the trees
buried him in the crowded cemetery
almost full
where his mother's grave is
buried him in a plot
miraculously empty for forty-seven years
one away from hers
was there anyone he loved more?
lucky on the final roll
the final place of rest

then while driving away
my daughter at the wheel
close to home
I recognize the woman
walking down the middle of the road
balancing on the double yellow
as if it were a high wire
a friend gone back to Moscow
years before
returned to visit her mother
a friend who meets me by the side of the road
kisses me and sneaks a crimson leaf
like a handkerchief in my breast pocket
a friend who tells me two days hence
that my father came to her the day before
to tell her that he was worried about me
a pleasant change
now that I am no longer worried about him

there is life after death
a soul which is freed as the body crumbles
colors which come into view
only as life is fading
returning from the branches
down into the roots
to weather the winter
returning to the earth
waiting for spring and some green rebirth
but now
the leaves are falling





after hours

except for the trees
the quad was empty
two or three a.m.
some peopleless hour
I don't remember
it was so long ago
let's say that the moon
shone down from an unobserved angle
bathing the bricks
and lawn and leaves
gray and other-worldly
or that the scene was
unevenly illuminated
yellowish
by electric lights
along the perimeter walkways
I am there
fifteen years old
in a third floor dorm room window
looking out
my roommate
peacefully breathing
sleepy dreams
I am awake
and away from home
meditating on the quiet night
the scene below
truer
without the comings and goings
of academic pursuit
an empty stage
in a theater
after hours
fit for dreams
everything is suspended
thoughts, geometry, colors, Latin,
family, English, sex, the years stretching out before me,
history, science, breakfast, dinner, lunch
asleep
all asleep
and why am I up?
maybe I've just returned
from the bathroom
down the hall
perhaps the fullness
of the moon
has pulled me out of bed
I don't remember
it was so long ago
it doesn't really matter
I do remember
talking with my father
later
about sitting there
on the window seat
looking out
through the divided pane
onto the tranquil night
and the feeling
which was more
the absence of feeling
and his telling me
to write about it
and
like so many other things he said
I didn't listen
until much later
until now





Shining Blessing

just now
14 years ago her mother nudged me from sleep
to tell me that she was coming
slightly then at midnight
the contractions had begun

we waited hours
and then
called the midwives
who did not come for hours more
wise as they were
arriving as the day dawned sunny and deep in snow
a cold, peaceful Sunday

we ate
(what else was there to do?)
and tended to the miracle transpiring in the other room
keeping her company amid her groans and laughter
and went out for a walk
she and I
because her cervix had stalled its dilation
while the sun shone brightly
leaning heavily on me
nightgown flowing out under her coat
a short stroll down the block
(were we ever closer?)

and then the matter began in earnest
and carried on until the day was gone
until the darkness which is at once
according to the Jews
the end of one
and the beginning of another day
until amid the hope and groans and laughter she was born
three minutes before eight

(that was
if such moments do exist
the beginning of the end
having performed my biological function
I was no longer needed by the female who had given birth
but over the years
my fathering has endured her mother's venom
the unbridled disdain that has taken generations to perfect
the child and I sharing an inner bond that matches our striking look alike)

she was born on the day he died
174 years after his passing
the death anniversary of the Old Rebbe
mystic and scholar extraordinaire
the fullness of a life well lived
completing
the greatness of a new life just beginning

birth and death and death and birth
new roots reaching down
into ground made fertile
by the life that came before





driving lesson

the automatic was a pleasure for her after learning on my standard
no more of my coaching
regarding the perfect reciprocal relationship between accelerator and clutch
just put it in gear, step on the gas and steer
she was intent, both hands on the wheel
eyes forward
conveying herself and a backseated friend
to the store
for supplies
for a model
for biology class
and me
incidentally
along for the ride
the yet necessary adult
before the permit becomes a license
admiring her from the front passenger seat
never having seen her sit so tall
her friend in the backseat chuckling
when I told her, "Good girl"
for accelerating to make it through a yellow light

it was exactly this time of year
thirty years ago
that I got my driver's license
and my father started letting me drive him
whenever we were
by ourselves in the car
now I too prefer the passenger seat
to be chauffeured around by someone
who not that many years before
pedaled ahead on her first bicycle
not knowing I had already let go

it was a rite of passage
the first time she felt fully competent behind the wheel
the first time I could just sit back and enjoy the ride
and notice that she was becoming an adult

"not as much pick-up as the Toyota," she observed
and I had to agree

we must enjoy the moments
even as they speed away





happy birthday

seventeen years ago
I also hadn't had much sleep the night before.
you beginning your entrance around two AM
and your mother-to-be waking me
to let me know that you were coming,
like today, it was a Sunday
with snow on the ground
the midwives took their time in coming
arriving around six with appetites.
the three of us spending the day eating
and visiting the bedroom
where you were giving your mother a hard time
(as all children then do.)
around three
because her cervix was slow to stretch
to get her out of bed
and to break up the psychology of the day
I took your mother for a walk
a short stroll
with her leaning heavily on me
up and down the sidewalk
in front of the apartment on Skyview Drive
the sun shining brightly,
then it was back to bed for her
her labor starting in earnest.
she was brave
and good-humored
with nary a complaint
and right now
at 7:46
seventeen years ago
you were squeezing your way out
being pushed out
(you never did want to get any older)
until there (right now at 7:57)
you were
and with the snip of a cord
you were your own person
and have been ever since.
and as happy and proud
as your mother and I were
holding your swaddled, new life
neither of us could imagine
how wonderful you were and would be
seventeen years ago.
happy birthday, baby




absolution

when she was a little girl
six years old
my daughter
trying to come to terms
with the major conflict in her life
asked,
or stated, I suppose,
I know Mommy is mad at you
but I don't know why.
you'll understand when you're older
I deferred
tucking her into bed

two years went by
the conflict no better resolved
she asked again
I know Mommy is mad at you
but I don't know why
and all I could manage
was the same reply
you'll understand when you're older
quick as a whip
she snapped back
that's what you told me before
but at eight
she still needed her mother
in ways which precluded further explanation

now at fourteen
the vacuous nature
of her mother's anger is apparent
a rage whose motive
has little if anything to do
with what has triggered it
commiserating
now that she is also its victim
she observed
that her mother
likes to get angry

there is no way to avoid it
it walks in the door with her
at the end of the day
looking for provocation
a target
a pretense

we are born into it
grow up with it
and
if we are lucky
some of us leave





passage

my daughter grows up
my father returns to childhood
loss and gain
the balance
weirdly maintained

another chance
for him to receive
the love he's lived without
child and father
and father and child
parenting each other
in turn

another chance
elegantly sad
childhood passed
like an old coat
between the generations
the girl becoming a young woman
the man becoming an old child

we are presented with opportunities
to make up for lost time
to turn back the page
to stop making the same mistakes
to witness
if only in a glimpse
a glorious future
which we have helped engender

we live
also outside ourselves
simultaneously
sitting
by the side of the road
and driving away
in two places at once
staring back and forth
at our divided self
across a distance
which is also
the closest embrace




vigil

we stay awake
as midnight
imperceptibly changes
September into October
autumn's first cold rain
falling unhurriedly
upon the roofs
and lawns and streets
of this sleepy town

a voice
here in the night
coming
wishing to be heard
a whisper from the grave
the echo of a song
a dream
compelling us to listen

downstairs
my father
half awake in his bed
imagines
that he is on
some lonely mountain top
and cries for help

we stay awake
because something
or someone
needs us
because life
reveals itself
in night's intimacies
softly calling
across the seasons
keeping us awake
hoping for rescue





you're it

it's hard
but there's no one else to do it
no one to do it for you
father's large, strong hand
smaller now and frail
mother in her second childhood
the job needs doing
grab a hold
you'll figure it out as you go along
because there's no other choice
because
the consequences of failure
are unacceptable
because it had to be this way
unprotected and alone
the experts are remiss
the authorities are strangely silent
impossible to know
before the fact
what will be required
forward
push on
it's all that you can do





pretty girls

I'm looking for a woman to save my life ... A woman with the feeling of losing once or twice... -Neil Young

little girls are mostly all beautiful
watching my daughter's first grade classmates I observed
second grade confirmed this truth
but less so
and in third grade the prettiness quotient
had declined even further
by fourth grade the balance was equal
by fifth grade I had stopped noticing

life has a way of working its magic
psychological abuse becoming incarnate
the budding realization of life's tragedy
shriveling the rose,
people just get uglier
boys and girls

it is a spiritual disease
some just aren't exposed
and some have better immune systems
their resistance preserving them
through adolescence
into their twenties
or early thirties
ah, these beautiful young ladies
unscathed by worldly concerns
buoyed above the waves
by an optimism
which demands our admiration
their triumph is so precious
and so unstable

something happens
they fall for the wrong guy
they get pregnant
a black cat crosses their path
they get hurt
cynical
or afraid
their wings get clipped
someone gets sick
or dies
their stride falters

I've seen it happen too many times before
broadsided
and they never see it coming
trying to warn them
you might as well be speaking Chinese
"where have all the young girls gone?
when will they ever learn?"
too late is too late
in any language

the eyes have it
they show the pain
even when a superficial beauty is maintained
and they reveal
beneath a careworn face
a deeper beauty
sometimes gained
through suffering

it's hard to watch it happen
but the protest is in vain
ah, those pretty girls
the shame of it all
that youth is wasted
on the young





missing

it's never enough
not fifty
or seventy
or even one hundred percent
not the sun rising
on the perfect last Saturday of summer
not a nap
after an afternoon of love
not hours spent with dad
at the close of his life
or a daughter
proudly making her own way
not words flowing freely
leaving images on the page
not even assurances of the divine

some kind of wounds
they don't heal
what's gone is gone
and it isn't coming back
there's no way to fill that hole
not with all the tea in China


Back to top

 

Songs

 

Saint Annie

Through the window open wide
Night slips quietly inside
Turning memories of you
A much deeper shade of blue.

Saint Annie took her dress off
As she walked across the beach
The conversation was too polite and formal.

Then she dove into the water
Drifting further out of reach
She was tired of solid earth and acting normal.

Staying up all night she painted
Seven wonders on the wall
And in the morning left to go and join the circus.

She's at home up on the highwire
'Cause there’s no place left to fall
She has balance, but she’s got no sense of purpose.

Whirling through the kitchen
Like a dervish in her dance
She paused to make the food appear upon the table

Then sitting down to eat
She fell back deeply in a trance
She was willing, but she wasn't always able.

Annie saw the angels floating
All around the bed
Then on silver wings she floated out the window
Following the line
Between the living and the dead
She had reasons, but she never really said so.

All is lost, there’s no returning
Bridges crossed are brightly burning
Man, it's never really clear
Somehow things just disappear.



Regret

I know you feel cheated/ Deceived and mistreated
By people you thought you could trust
The love that you bartered/ Betrayed now lies martyred
Returning to ashes and dust
That door you were hopin'/ Would one day spring open
Has sealed 'neath a layer of rust
With all of their lying/ There's no use in trying
Still sometimes you feel that you must.

Some fright keeps you frozen/ A sacrifice chosen
To pay back your family’s debt
That old guilt that binds you/ Speaks up to remind you
Of things that you’d rather forget
You cherish the notion/ That childish devotion
Will ransom you from your regret
But beg, steal, or borrow/ Your fear and your sorrow
Cannot pay the price that's been set.

The game that you're playing/ The rules you're obeying
Have left you without any sense
This losing and winning/ Right from the beginning
Have made you uncomfortably tense
The walls you erected/ To keep you protected
Have locked you within your defense
They've all been outsmarted/ But now you have started
Believing in your own pretense.

These words which I've spoken/ Lie lifeless and broken
Outside on the steps by your door
Your arrogant shoulder/ Has gotten much colder
Sometimes even I can't ignore
You've battered and blamed me/ Abandoned and shamed me
But that's all just part of the score
Still I'm sick of this grieving/ I'm tired and I’m leaving
I don't want to play anymore.



Abandon

Abandon all hope you who pass through this door
Say goodbye to the life you won't live anymore
For the signs that direct you are to clear to ignore
And there's no turning back if you'd want to
Because nothing's the same as it once seemed before
For your whole damn world is changing.

Sickness rages around you without any cure
Their drugs and addictions make you numb and obscure
While the fountains of water all run dry or impure
Don't worry 'bout the chances you're taking
Just get out while you can 'cause you’re dying there for sure
For your whole damn world is changing.

Those you do love have been cruelly unkind
They've convinced you to search in the land of the blind
For a comfort and home that you can never find
As they stumble and fall right beside you
But now keep your eyes open and don't look behind
For your whole damn world is changing.

Your castles and temples have turned into sand
And they've all washed away with the dreams that you've planned
And they've left you there floating with no ground to stand
Amid dark waves that threaten to drown you
Just forget what you've lost and start swimming for land
For you whole damn world is changing.

The storm outside raging does batter and blast
And blow open that old door which you had held fast
And it sucks you along as the threshold is past
Out into the cyclone your spinning
Now you'd better start living like each moment's your last
For your whole damn world is changing.



Give Me A Call

When you've lost or forgotten whatever you came for
And your guilt seeps like rain through the cracks in the wall
But you don't know which crime you've accepted the blame for
Won't you please give me a call.

When you've let go of the threads by which you've been hanging
And you tumble through the darkness as you fall
Into another tangled web wove of lifeless haranguing
Won't you please give me a call.

When you can't find the ground that you used to stand on
And you're not sure which way that you ought to crawl
But you know that you wont reach the goal that you planned on
Won't you please give me a call.

When your reason takes the veil from your eyes and deserts you
And your nakedness leaves you no room to barter or stall
With the hungry embrace which surrounds and perverts you
Won't you please give me a call.



Sad To Tell

Oh children it's sad to tell
That you like me were born in hell
And those who claim to wish you well
Have hung your soul to dry and sell.

Crucified by mother's pain
Chafing from your father's rein
Your heart is broken and in chain
I wish somehow I could explain.

There is no way to count the cost
The love you crave is ever lost
You're brutalized and double crossed
That fragile spring betrayed by frost.

They feed you on their unfilled dreams
To fence you in their selfish schemes
And justify by any means
Ignoring all your muffled screams.



*****
Darling it's sad and lonely
In this world you left behind
Blue skies these days are only
Distant mem'ries in my mind

Chorus:
Life goes on without you
The night still follows day
Dreams I dreamed about you
Still carry me away

Happiness still and silent
Stares from photos on the shelf
Transformed by passion's violence
I'm a stranger to myself



Dazed

I'm dazed and confused
Clear out of control
Amazed and abused
Worried 'bout my soul.

Don't dare to call you
You're harder than stone
Nowhere to fall to
I feel so alone.

I'm trying to cope
But I can't stand this pain
I'm dying with hope
To see you again.

Someone stole the night
And the promise of dawn
The sun isn't bright
Ever since you've been gone.

Down for the third time
And can't catch my breath
Life seems absurd, I'm
Just flirting with death.

Your deep grace I miss
The spell of your charms
I weep for your kiss
Come back to my arms.


Fool for Your Love

Negated, violated, I've really been frustrated
The way you act is so unfair
Stagnated, checkmated, totally aggravated
I'm so weary of this sad affair.
I'm working way too hard
I've played each and very card
It's so clear that we're not going anywhere
I'm not getting your respect
Still don't know what you expect
And right now I just don't seem to care

Won't ever know just what you were thinking of
But I've sure been a fool for your love.

Disputed, refuted, my thoughts are convoluted
So uptight that they can't unwind
Uprooted, polluted, I feel so persecuted
The way you act is so unkind
Now you're heading for a fall
Yes the writing's on the wall
There's just one thing shining clearly in my mind
Maybe we had a chance before
But I can't take it anymore
I've just got to leave this craziness behind.

Won't ever know just what you were thinking of
But I've sure been a fool for your love.

Mistreated, depleted, been lied to and been cheated
You're not half the woman you pretend
Defeated, unseated, I've almost been deleted
Why do you do those things you can't defend?
I've used every last resort
And my temper's running short
There is nothing left for me to lose or spend
Now my heart's already broken
Every word's already spoken
We're on empty baby it's the end

Won't ever know just what you were thinking of
But I've sure been a fool for your love.

Defied, hogtied, hung up and crucified
That's too many dues for anyone to pay
Denied, shanghaied, I've been misidentified
Please excuse me but I really cannot stay
Girl yout treat me so damn cruel
Yes you've broken every rule
That's your game now go find someone else to play
Leave you sitting on your throne
I'm much better off alone
You'll have other lovers to betray.

Won't ever know just what you were thinking of
But I've sure been a fool for your love.




I Know

I know that I'm much better than the way you're treating me
And I know that there's a long hard road ahead before I'm free
Still I know that at this moment I'm right where I'm s'pposed to be
And 'though I know there's nothing more to do or say
Baby somehow it's still so hard to walk away.

One day maybe I'll understand the crazy things you do
One day maybe you'll find the strength and nerve to pull you through
One day maybe I won't be sad when my thoughts turn to you
But that one day's such a long long way away
And I just can't take the sadness here today.

I feel so many things I've never dared to feel before
I feel just like some shipwrecked fool washed up upon the shore
I feel so much I've worked for doesn't matter anymore
I feel sick and tired of paying all these dues
And I'm free because there's nothing left to lose.

Goodbye now there's no turning back it's time for me to go
Goodbye it really doesn't help to swim against the flow
Goodbye there's no one else to blame we reap just what we sow
Goodbye that happiness that I kept dreaming of
Farewell that heartache which I once mistook for love.



Love Hurts

Baby love hurts/There's a lot to go through
Some sweet deserts/ But there's bitterness too
Still when your heart flirts/Nothing else you can do
Baby love hurts/And now I'm hurting you

Darling love dies/Like a flower or a tree
Cry out your eyes/It's a damn misery
After all of your tries/That's how it's got to be
Darling love dies/And now it's killing me

Honey love bleeds/All the way from the heart
Love has its needs/Which you just can't outsmart
It seldom succeeds/It's a dangerous art
Honey love bleeds/Every time that we part

Sweetheart love breaks/It's a dark, dirty shame
The chances one takes/Are just part of the game
We all make mistakes/In that we're all the same
Sweetheart love breaks/I guess I'll take the blame



Cemetery Song

I've heard enough of your sad refrain
With its poisonous seduction
I'm sick to death of this stupid pain
And this senseless self-destruction.
I've been listening far too long
To your cemetery song.

Been disappointed one too many times
By the lies you pass for truth
Your twisted reasons and your fatal rhymes
Haunt the lost years of my youth.
Everything keeps working out wrong
In your cemetery song.

Your elegantly savage rage
Wove the cords of my self-doubt
Into a labyrinthine cage
With no path leading out.
I'm certain now that I don't belong
In your cemetery song.

All the kindnesses you've laid to waste
Lie shattered among broken dreams
Brilliant promises all now replaced
By your cruel, inhuman schemes.
Lately I'm feeling much to strong
For your cemetery song.

I've heard enough of your howling beast
With its catastrophic urge
I want nothing but to be released
From that rabid funeral dirge.
I've been listening far too long
To your cemetery song.



Funeral Train

When you're trying to go forward, but everything keeps moving in reverse
And that train you ride to glory has come to feel much more like a hearse
You'd better stop pretending that this is all somebody elses curse
Because it's yours and believe me everything can still get much worse.

I can see how you're hanging; I think I can tell where you'll fall
There is no one who can save you, nobody left for you to call
We've all been impressed with how you stand so proud and straight and tall
It's sad to find that all the time your back was pressed hard up against the wall.

Once living seemed so certain, but now your deep confusion is quite clear
As your sanity deserts you taking with it all the things that you held dear
And that courage you relied on is shown to be just stubbornness and fear
You're heading right into the light, but your shadow keeps on pulling from the rear.

The sirens of your doom resounded but you never paid them any heed
Trusting that your consequence, your position, and your greed
Could borrow, win, or steal for you anything that you would ever need
Now their mournful tone cuts to the bone leaving you to shiver there and bleed.

The engine's driving hard and fast on through the darkness and the rain
The rythms of the wheels and track merge with the pounding in your brain
You watch the drops come down like tears outside on the window pane
Across the face of someone staring back at you trapped on that funeral train.



all the sweetness left untasted

all the sweetness left untasted
all the loving that you've wasted
how I wish that you had faced it
faced the demon at your door

not for G-d and not for pleasure
not for wisdom or for treasure
stubbornly you would not measure
all the pain that came before

stop the games, you're growing older
and your world a little colder
fires once bright now dimly smolder
gone the flaming and the roar

time to go, no good in waiting
frustrated anticipating
I would only end up hating
that which once I did adore

you weren't real I only dreamed you
t'was my heart and only seemed you
and however bright it gleamed you
could not see the love I bore

for the folly undertaken
pardon me, I was mistaken
now I find as I awaken
all the blankets on the floor

love is just a form of madness
paper shields against the sadness
leaving us bereft of gladness
pierced by arrows to the core

guess I knew before I started
still I thought we could outsmart it
here among the broken-hearted
who ought hope for nothing more

what is cruel and what is crueler?
who's the fool and who the fooler?
is experience a school or
what is all the effort for?

it's your life, it's yours to squander
from the truth you're free to wander
but you'll never find one fonder
of the secrets there in store
of the gold within the ore
of the pretty smile you wore



Too Late

Really don't know how things turned out this way
The price they demanded was too high to pay
I don't want to leave, but I'm sure I can't stay
When the curtain comes down it's the close of the play.

There's so much to lose and so little to gain
The years have beclouded what once was so plain
I'm tired and I'm broken and I can't stand the strain
All my hopes are like bubbles now washed down the drain.

The truth is much deeper than my eyes can see
It's too late to argue, too soon to agree
The question of blame is just one of degree
The promises given were no gaurantee.

Too hungry to hold back, too foolish to warn
The colorful coat now lies bloodied and torn
My deaths are too many for one man to mourn
Accursed was the day that such misery was born.




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