METASTASIS

She could barely move her head
the cancer climbed her spine
reaching upward, clutching vertebrae
reaching out, tendrils grasping
tearing fragile organs.
She would cry, but that would be
an admission of defeat,
a welcome to death.

I cried out for her,
entreated our God
for compassion
that she might stand by her sons
when they uttered the ancient words,
by her daughter, adjusting
the white lace veil,
but he would not answer,
drawn into catatonia, seeing
severed limbs of children
littering the streets of Sarajevo.

She clings tenuously to life
as I cling tenuously to faith.


First appeared in Community of Poets Magazine Vol. 21,, 1999 and later in 
Legal Studies Forum 30:1-2, 2006

CLARITY

There are those occasional moments
of clarity that appear without warning
and are, as quickly, gone.
We expect them less as we age
and they oblige us by staying away.
Children assume them, and are
rarely surprised, as though
they see them coming, need no warning
and have no expectation
anything will come of them.
Expectations grow proportionally with age
and patience diminishes apace.
The child understands all of this
with the same fascination she has
for a soap bubble, as she watches
each float away on the breeze of time.

PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.

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.

LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER, NOT

My mother used to say, about
most anything, “Stop, you’ve had your fill.”
It was something she did by rote,
dictated I was certain then, by
some timer buried deep within her
that brought forth the phrase
like the beep of an oven timer
to indicate whenever she was baking
was certain to be just slightly underdone.
I didn’t listen to her, of course,
just paid the lip service of which
children are the acknowledge masters.
I still hear her voice echoing the phase
as i walk through the park each morning
stopping to gaze at whatever new
has come into bloom, the patterns
of the clouds over the hills to the south,
the conversation of the birds
who only think i don’t understand, but i
never get my fill of the beauty before me.

A MESSAGE HOME

What I want to tell her is this:
it’s fitting, perfectly, that you
who so assiduously hid the past
from me, your past and mine,
now bars your entry, refusing you
even the briefest glimpse.
You want so to grab onto it
to have it carry you to a place
removed from here by time
and distance, where it is warm
and most of the time, cozy.
It is also fitting that you
call out his name, as though
he was in the yard
pruning a tree, delaying dinner,
the same he you cursed
glad to have him out of your life
and out of your house,
you wished him dead
so that you might call yourself
a widow and share
condolences with the other
black draped women.
You never mentioned
the six months of foster care
or the little sister who came
and went so quickly
when he had the audacity
to drop dead on you one morning.
This is what I would say to her,
this is the curse I would
place upon her
but she no longer
recognizes me, I am no more
than a well dressed orderly
come to remove her lunch tray.


First Published in Riding the Meridian 1999/1;2

ASTROGEN

I could never understand as a child
why the moon was female,
the sun always male, and most
stars but ours had Arabic names.
Now makes much more sense to me,
the moon is never one to hog the sky
and even when she commands more
than her usual space, you only want
to stare at her in rapture,
while the sun is so vain
you can stare only briefly
and must look away, and he
is as likely to hide or flee
when he is most wanted,
as a calming, steady presence.
As for the names of all the others,
they don’t sound like ours,
and so we cast them off
as aliens to our small, smug world