BASHO, REDUX

This poem was recently published in the first issue of a new journal, Punt Volat.  You can find it here:

https://puntvolatlit.com/issues/winter-2019


If Basho were here today,
in this America, at this time,

stop briefly and consider what
he might write, how he would

describe the faces of parents
mourning children gunned down

in random urban violence,
the asylum seeker, praying

at the border for entry, for hope,
the homeless woman curled

in a ball in her cardboard home
in an alley no one visits, no one

sees even in the full light of day,
the school children practicing

active shooter drills, while
learning to recite the alphabet.

sitting zazen, I
see one thousand cranes crying.
Their river bathes me.

MORNING READING

You read the obituaries every day
not only for the affirmation that you
are not listed among them
The key five words there are
not only for the affirmation, particularly
upon hearing the gentle man you liked,
that you valued as a friend and craftsman
is gone, but you didn’t say goodbye,
that you thought “better him than me,”
that you hated that thought,
that you hated yourself for thinking it,
that nonetheless you are glad
it wasn’t you, was someone else
just not him, just not someone you knew.
You weren’t in the obituaries today
and when you are gone, you won’t
be here to read it anyway, and you won’t
think “better him than me,”
and you promise you
will forgive those that think it.

THE SENTENCE

I was honored to have this poem recently published by Please See Me, 2019 Issue 3. You can see the original here (and other work by some fine writers:
https://pleaseseeme.com/issue-3/poetry/the-sentence-louis-faber

“Probable metastatic lesions
secondary to breast cancer.”
Complex words set
at the bottom of a page,
impenetrable jargon.

Two spots where pelvis
and spine are joined,
where motion fulcrums
down legs, a torso
and its twin concavities
lever up, fold down, torque
in slow rotation
living.

The words stare out
from the page; defiant,
aberrant cells nestling bone
foretell a pillow
blanketed in hair,
rosy skin sheltering
burning flesh beneath.
I offer platitudes,
empty aphorisms
neither she nor
I believe. For me
self-serving hope,
weak bracing
for a hastily built bridge
spanning a gulf
of absence and neglect:
a young girl abandoned,
a woman rediscovered.

For her, baby sister,
a smile born of the pain
of the surgeons’
hollow handiwork
across skull and chest,
an unguent smile
to soothe my
festering guilt.

We watch words
shatter against
the impenetrable reality.

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)

TODAY, ALAS

Too much of what passes
for literature in these days is really
no more lasting than the evanescent
pixels from which it is created.

Books fade, pages crumble to dust
but that requires the passage of time
that our electronic world avoids
or simply refuses to acknowledge,

for history is something that lives
in storage, perhaps recalled, if still
viable, be very easily forgotten,
and compressed to save space.

Still I have my library of books,
and not once in recent memory
have I had to halt my reading
to recharge the printed pages.

INSTRUCTIONS

Go into the hills
an bring back logs,
straight, peel the bark
and smooth them
satin fibers, the main pole
at least eight arms
the cross no less than six.
Lash them well
so they will not yield
under the weight
of the body
where you might hang.
Do not speak
to the shepherd,
he will tell tales
of what he claims
he has seen on the hill
but he cannot be trusted
and speaks of his dreams
of centurions standing
over the freshly dug graves.


First appeared in Rain Dog Review Vol. 1, No. 4 (1996) and later in 
Legal Studies Forum Vol 32, No. 1 (2008)