YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED

I received the invitation today, but I won’t be attending. I’m not inclined to RSVP, for that will only drive home the fact that I couldn’t afford to attend. They have to know this, and if they don’t, well… That really is their problem. My mother said you should always RSVP, yes or no, but she’s been dead two years, never said she’d attend anything again. And anyway I still believe the rule doesn’t apply to any invitation addressed to Current Resident

GAME, SET, MATCH

As a child, a Jewish child no less,
December was always a bit difficult.
We had Channukah, which no Jew
would dare claim grew solely to compete
with Christmas, although we all knew
that was precisely what had happened.

The problem was Christmas, but had
nothing to do with Jesus, or the church
or even its historical teachings about
the supposed role we Jews played
in that story, a role for which we
had been paying for two millennia.

The problem was far more basic,
and all you needed to do was drive
down virtually any street in any city
and it would be at once apparent.
Christmas-celebrating homes were decked
out in all colors of lights, while
Jewish homes, those few who competed,
were left with a palate of white
and blue, or up to nine candles,
and that was a guaranteed for sure
last place finish in the December game.

LIVES

I have lived many lives,
too many to count, and I
remember bits and pieces
of each, but not necessarily
to which life this bit
or that bit should attach.

It is why I run them
together, view them
as a singularity, easier
to cope even when I
know it is a nice delusion.

I do wonder, at the moment
of death if each life will
flash by in turn, countless
short films, or if the gods
will go along with my
delusion, or maybe just
say time’s up, lights off.

PFFFT

As I age now I am
aware that the tether
to my earliest memories
has grown thin, stretched
by time until I know it will,
of necessity, soon give way.

And so I spend spare
moments trying to sort
through my life as I recall
it, selecting those moments
that bear the effort of retethering
so that time would be better
served weakening others.

But the hidden beauty,
I know, is that when a memory
is gone, has fallen away, it often
takes its shadow along, so there
is no hint even of its prior existence,
and you don’t mourn what
you never had, even if you did.

SEASONS

Here we measure seasons
by small changes in temperature
and for one, heavy rainfall.

We are the calendar reliant,
otherwise left to look at the moon
and count to ascertain roughly

what month it might be, but
we now live in a solar calendar
world so our lunar efforts
are necessarily doomed to failure.

And holidays are different here,
Christmas has no snow,
so we decorate our palms
and perhaps have inflatable
snowmen or reindeer, and hang
icicles from our gutters as
a reminder of what winter
is for so many other than us.

CABERNET

I should pause for a moment
and mourn the plump orbs
vinaceous in the morning sun,
torn free, placed in baskets
and carried off to be crushed.
But the cabernet beckons,
its first sip telling the tale
of the California summer,
the oak having long forgotten
the tree from which it was cut,
and I watch as the sun
reluctantly retreats,
a flaming farewell, the promise
of a return, the moon casting
its purple glare on the wine glass.

First appeared in Flora Fiction, Vol. 3, Issue 4, Winter 2022
https://florafiction.com/literary-magazine/volume-4/

PRAVDA

If I was in Russia I
would have no problem
finding a title for this poem
for it would be The Last.

I would write that I mourn
the children, men, and women
sacrificed to assuage his
warped need for domination.

I would write that I detest
his disregard of truth,
supplanting it with his lies
to justify his megalomania.

I would write that I stand
with the people of Ukraine
and for that I would pay with
my words, and perhaps my life.

SHE

You were a young beauty
to my middle aged eyes
that knew, despite the mirror’s
lies, that I too retained
some large measure of youth.

Even that is now behind us,
and I can no longer deny
the mirror’s sad truth,
my face unable to belie what
I knew time had wrought.

And yet your beauty has
not diminished, rather grown
as does a fine wine richer
for time’s passage, and I
swim ever deeper in love’s sea.

IN A HIDDEN CORNER

As stars go, of course
it is rather nondescript,
small, middle aged
stuck in a distant corner
of a not all that
impressive galaxy.

Yet each morning
it sweeps the sky
storing all of its kin,
even the biggest
and brightest, into
its own celestial closet
where they will
remain locked away
until it decides
it needs a rest
and lets them return
to once again
paint the sky.

SHEEPISH

As a child, when I
had trouble falling asleep
my mother would trot out
the ancient saw and tell me
to just count sheep.

I tried to point out
to her that we lived
in an upscale suburb
and there were no sheep
for miles for me to count.

This hardly deterred her
and she repeated her
directions, in a stronger
tone of voice that she thought
brooked no argument.

I did try counting sheep
but still couldn’t sleep
given my congestion
and sneezing from what
I learned was a wool allergy.

JEALOUSY (AGAIN)

We are jealous of trees,
anchored as we are
to a grasping earth,
able to tear free only
momentarily or with
the help of machines,

for trees can approach
the clouds, swaddle
all manner of birds,
and, we are certain,
know heaven more
intimately than we can.

And trees are jealous
of birds, able to fly
well above their highest
branches, knowing
the true blue of the sky
and the verdant base
from which they took flight.

Just for the fun of it I asked ChatGPT to write a poem on this topic. Here is its effort:

In envy we gaze upon the sky, Watching birds soar with such grace and ease, Their wings taking them to places high, Leaving us on the ground to freeze.

We long to join them in their flight, To feel the wind beneath our wings, To escape the troubles of our plight, And spread our arms to feel the fling.

But alas, we are not meant to fly, Our feet firmly planted on the earth, While birds glide through the clouds on high, Showing us the true meaning of worth.

We may be jealous of their freedom, But let us not forget our own, For we have the ability to dream, And make our own paths to be shown.

So let us not dwell on jealousy, For we too have our own unique gifts, Let us embrace our humanity, And find joy in the life we’re given

MID MORNING SONG

He leans against the wall
outside the Prêt à Manger
witting with his dog
on the old Mexican blankets
that look uniquely out of place
on a cool London morning.
He sips the now fetid coffee
in its Styrofoam cup,
its Burger King logo
and temperature warning.
His hair is long, mostly
gray with streaks of white,
his beard white
with swaths of blond, he
looks as though he
just stepped down the plank
of the great sailing ship,
returned from a voyage
save for his tattered, stained
Manchester United sweatpants.
I put 50p in his metal box
against my better judgment
and stroke behind the ears
of the placid dog.
“May you be many times praised”
he sputters, through teeth
stained tobacco brown,
“for with more like you,
Rufus here, and I shall later
enjoy a fine repast.
May Saint Dymphna be praised.”
In the taxi to Paddington Station
I wonder who my patron
might be, if Jews
only had Saints.

First published in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Issue Two
https://sidewayspoetry.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/london-issue-2-1.pdf