SUMMER, THEN

For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.

HANGING BY A THREAD

In Riga, my grandfather
was a master tailor,
the great and the rich
would come to his shop
some bringing bolts of fine cloth
and others trusting him
knowing that wools and silks
were not beyond his reach.
Even after they marked
his home as that of the Jew,
the Captain, who rode
through the city with his men
torches thrown through windows
would come to him,
late in the night,
seeking a new dress uniform.
Eventually they took his needles
threw his spools of thread
into the river, he could stand no more
and with the few kopecks that remained
he left for New York
where, he though, even
a poor tailor could walk
on golden streets and create
garments the likes of which
a Tsar could only imagine.
Each morning he would arise
and strap on the scarred phylacteries
to recite his morning prayers
then go out into the cold
in his threadbare coat
to the factories and couture houses
only to return before noon
to a bowl of bread soup
awaiting the visit of one
of the men or women in his tenement
who would ask him to sew
a new patch into a worn jacket,
a fraying dress, all
for a few pennies
begrudgingly spared.
He was, he said, the new Moses
free of bondage, told
that milk and honey
would be his portion
wandering the desert
of this new land, free
at last of the bonds
that had enslaved him
plucking the bitter manna
from among the sands
but free he would shout
to starve on the cliffs
overlooking the land
promised to him.


First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No 1 (2000) and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2  (2006)

WINTER MEMORY

As I stare out the window and watch
the snow slowly build on the limbs
of the now barren sugar maple, painting
it with a whiteness that bears heavily
giving the smaller branches a better
view of the ground in which their
fruit of the summer lies buried.

I am forced to wonder if the maple
continues to watch me, if its vision
is clouded by the snowy blanket
in which it wraps itself this day,
and if it does, what must it think
of someone so sedentary when it,
bearing its winter burden can still
dance gently in the morning wind.

WATING GAME

We pull in to the parking lot where
our mailboxes are arrayed like
so many graves at Arlington, or more
like the drawers in a low cost mausoleum.

This is the new Postal Service, sharing
the burden of the need to cut costs
even at the expense of services.

Standing nearby are two Sandhill
Cranes watching the postal worker
carefully unload the trays of mail
and buckets of packages, soon to be
slotted and eventually carried away.

The birds stare at us, knowing it seems
that they are protected, and we need
to walk and drive around them, for they
have no intention of yielding ground to us,
certain they were here first and they say
they tolerate us only barely, and if we
doubt that, they will explain
in pointed detail with their beaks.

We walk around them and wonder how
they would hope to open the metal box
where any mail they might receive
will soon enough be deposited.

MEDITATION

A wise Buddhist teacher
once told me that anything you do,
if you do it mindfully, can be
a form of meditation, and I have
taken this into my practice,
albeit with mixed success, but that
is one reason they call it practice.

Walking silently, following
your breath in and out, aware
of your feet, the earth, the sky
is definitely meditative.

Chopping onions, carefully drawing
the knife thorough the layers
creating neatly incised bits
is certainly meditative.

Sitting by a pond watching
the sun slowly set it ablaze
as the breeze ruffles the surface
is absolutely meditative.

But folding laundry, no matter
how mindfully I approach the task
always and quickly morphs into
a mindless search for the missing sock.

The spider wandered around
the corner of the ceiling and wall
of the bathroom, one she called
a daddy longlegs, although most
spiders of my acquaintance have
rather long legs using my proportions
as a basis for comparison, and it was
my task to deal with it.

It was harmless, as are most
of his species, and I searched
for a way to give him and give us
our freedom, here perhaps,
a reality, since it is no colder
without than within, although the birds
in our wetlands might have other
ideas about the spider’s impermanence.

I paused, considered the options,
and knew this koan would not
be answered this day, and I bid
my octoped friend farewell, but
suggested he consider not
trying to bring me into his web.