VILLAGE

The village of my grandfather
still stands amid the fields

adobe walls stained
by soot from the fireplace

birds nesting in the summer
warmed chimney singing.

The ancient scythe leans
against the wall, its blade

embedded in the crusted soil
as the old tractor idles in the field.

Armies have trod this ground
ignoring the small house

smoke curling from its roof
stew bubbling in the iron pot,

for the city hills away,
its brick walls beckoning

the spoils of war hanging
in its galleries and vaults.

My grandfather lies
in the parched soil

roots of plants wrapped
around his fingers.


First appeared in Alchemy Online Literary Magazine 2000/2 Fall-Winter and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)

FIFTEEN MINUTES IN A LIFE

I walked slowly into
the darkened showroom
of the tattoo parlor, walls
lined with the wares
of the burly, bearded man
dragon rampant on his chest
barely contained by the Harley T-shirt.
Look around, he said, till you see
what you want, I’ll be here.
On one wall all manner of dragons
and other dreamlike beasts,
one of mermaids, nymphs
a corner of cycles, one of butterflies.
What I’d like, I said
is a Campbell’s Soup can
Tomato, preferably, or
Chicken Noodle, on my biceps
close to life sized.
He stared, slack jawed, but
you never really know,
it worked for Andy Warhol.

MASTER CRAFTSMAN

He waited patiently in the queue
until, after two and one half hours
he approached the battered metal counter.
The young, bored woman, chewing at her gum
asked the usual question, have you
looked hard for work this last week?
I stood in many lines, for hours on end
in my battered old shoes, that is
more work than you can imagine.
Each night I would soak my feet
for hours in the small sink
hoping the swelling would go down.
Each morning I would find another line
or two, if they moved quickly, but
at the end of each they would ask
the same question, what skills do you have
and I would tell them there are
few better than I at standing in lines,
and they would sheepishly smile
and thank me for my patience
and that is why, again this week,
I ask that you stamp my book
so I can stand in the other line
and wait patiently for my check
which I can take to the small bodega
waiting calmly in line to cash it
to buy what canned goods are on sale.
Then I will take my cans
and carefully line them up
on the kitchen counter, and marvel
at how patiently they stand in the queue.


First published in Pearl, Vol. 31, 2002

00100000 01110111 01101001 01101100

There will come a time in the not distant future when words will be rendered unnecessary, when thought will be freely transmissible, when distance will become a lost dimension. That day will be one of mourning, much as we mourned the death of the Underwood Champion, joined in death with the Royal Standard and a Smith Corona, and cursed IBM and Microsoft. And yet we poets will carry on, for we have always written because we have no other marketable skill.


OR IF YOU PREFER BINARY

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RELEASED

It happened again last Friday as it does almost every Friday. A quick check discloses another band has released an album Live In Concert. Pause to consider the absurdity. If you are in concert the odds are astronomically in favor of your being live. I suppose someone would attend a concert where the band wasn’t there, but not this kid. I will make the rare exception to my frustration where irony demands, but it isn’t all that demanding. Still, you’ve gotta love any Grateful Dead live album, and I’m good with any Live live album. At least I no longer need to question just how it is that Dead Can Dance but I cannot, for all It’s autumn and time to take in Smashing Pumpkins again.

LUDWIG

When I was twelve, I think,
maybe in the last days of eleven,
and in my third year of piano lessons
my teacher, Mrs. Schwarting, she
of no first name, and a steady hand
that could squeeze the muscle
of my shoulder, a taloned metronome,
gave me a small plastic bust
of Beethoven, told me to place it
on the piano, so that he could watch
my daily practice and insure
my eyes were on him, not the keys.
Ludwig is long gone, lost
in one of our moves, one less
gatherer of the dust of other activities.
Now, sitting on the bench,
flexing fingers demanding independence
I realize that his smile was one
of age, thankful for his deafness.


Previously published in Fox Cry Review, Vol. 23, 1997 and in PIF Magazine, Vol. 20, 1999.