Between Scylla and Charybdis they cower amidst the ruins fearful to look skyward lest they encourage the rains of hell.
Now and then they visit the corpses, hastily buried grief drowned by the sound of the laugh of the gunner peering down from the hills. It is always night for the soul and lookout must be kept for Charon, who rides silently along the rivers of blood, that flow through her streets.
In the great halls, far removed from the horror, self-professed wise men exchange maps lines randomly drawn, scythes slicing a people. They trade in lives as chattel, reaping a bitter harvest, praying there may only be but seven lean years.
They offer a sop to Cerberus, three villages straddling the river, but the army of the hills knows they will take that and more and waits patiently for the winter when the odor of sanctity no longer arises out of the city to assail their nostrils and Shadrach is no more than a ghost.
First Appeared in Living Poets (UK), Vol. 2, No. 1, 2000.
In my dreams, I have infinte power and a hint of omniscience one minute and am impotent, deaf and dumb the next, and there is no predicting which moment will be which or when a shift will suddenly happen.
I generally stay out of trouble, and when disaster looms, and I am powerless, I can awaken, reset the projector and try again, although I do have a nagging fear that one night I won’t be able to awaken and I will fall fatal victim to the disaster offered up by my own darkest fears
A millennium ago the army of the lord dressed in mail and rode proud steeds across barren lands, swords flashing in a red roasting sun washed in the blood of the infidels. They stopped for prayer blessing the bodies left along the dirt track left by their hooves, a common grave for common faces differing only in the color of skin and hair.
In this millennium the army of the lord slouches outside the mall rubbing hands against the chill, the bell bleating against the night, a barren moon reflects off the red kettle. As they locked the doors he pulled the flask from his hip pocket and thought of the bodies passing by, swerving to avoid him, and the forty dollars he would get would warm his frozen skin.
First Appeared in Lullwater Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1998. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
For eight days each December they call out to me as the flame of the candles flickers out, “Remember me” they say in unison, “remember me”, in the voice of the child, an old woman, in Yiddish, in Polish, German, Czech, Latt. I want to remember but I cannot see a face reduced to ash, blended into the earth of a farm field outside Treblinka, the winter wheat remembers. I want to remember but I cannot stroke the head of a young man whose bones mingle with his brother’s, countless others sharing a mass grave, his skull and brains painting the trunks of a nearby stand of trees. I want to remember but cannot hear the sweet tenor of the cantor whose tongue was torn from his mouth for refusing to speak of the tunnels beneath his once beloved Warsaw. I want to remember the lavender scent of the young woman, fresh from the showers but there is only the stench of putrid flesh and Zyklon, of bodies crammed into the converted boxcar. I want to remember the taste of a warm challah on Shabbat eve that she lovingly shaped into a braid and pulled from the oven, but her arms were neatly removed by the surgeon before she was cast naked into the Polish winter. I want to remember them all, their names in a memorial but they are only numbers tattooed onto endless arms. The candles die and their voices fall silent for yet another year.
First Appeared in Rattle, Issue 7, Summer 1997. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.
We were told the average background color of the universe was turquoise. She said “that’s because a coyote ripped it from the mountains outside Cerrillos. But now they say it’s actually a shade of dark beige, drying mud colored.” It was a glitch in the software, the astronomers said. The coyote was unmoved.
She sits on the floor sorting coupons and roughly clipped articles on herbs and natural remedies. Occasionally she looks down at the hollow of her chest, at the still reddened slash left by the scalpel. “I’ve got no veins left. I hate those damn needles. If they want to poison me, I’ll drink it gladly. Socrates had nothing on me.”
I rub her feet as she slides into the MRI tube, and pull on her toes. “I can pull you out at any time.” I look at my wrist but there is no time in this room, checked at the door. Just the metronomic magnet. As she emerges she grabs my hand, presses it against my chest. I cradle her head and trace the scar across her scalp, trying to touch the missing brain matter, the tumor it nestled, pushing aside the brittle hair. “Lightly toasted,” she whispers with a weak smile. She hates white coats and stethoscopes. “They’re the new morticians.” They take her in small sections. She is a slide collection in the back of my closet, on the pathologists shelf. I want to gather them all and reassemble her. I want her to be a young girl of fifteen again.
Coyotes wander down from the Sandia hills. They gather outside the Santo Domingo Pueblo, sensing the slow seepage of heat from the sun baked adobe. There is no moon. They know each star. They stare into the darkened sky. They see only turquoise.
Deep in a small forest, a murmuring brook reflects the shards of sun sliding through the crown of pines, its whispered wisdom infinitely more clear than the babbling of men holding the reins firmly in distant cities of power.
The birds know this well, sing of it in chorus, nature’s music, jazz scatting that the graying clouds absorb, an always willing audience, and the wind rushing by cries through the trees in the voice of long dead poets whose words offer a truth to which cloistered talking heads have grown deaf.
First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic , 2021
You can take my sight, but my mind will still see what it must, and my fingers will become eyes. You can take my hearing, I will imagine what I must, and my eyes will become ears. You can take my tongue, but my body will shout what I must, and my hands will speak volumes. The only thing you cannot take is my words, for without them my prison would be complete and I would be rendered mute, deaf and blind, and that is a fate from which I could never hope to emerge.