MELODY

I sing a shattered song
of someone else’s youth
the melody forgotten
the words faded into odd
syllables heard in my dreams.
The coyote stands at the edge
of a gully staring at me
and wondering why I slip
from the hogan through
the hole punched
in the back wall
slinking away
in the encroaching dark.
The priest, his saffron robes
pulled tight around his legs
in the morning chill,
stares as I run my hands
across the giant brass bell
feeling its resonance.
I hear the dirge
as sleep nips at the edge
of my consciousness
grabbing the frayed
margins of life

Published in These Lines, Fall 2020
https://theselines.org/these-lines-1.1-fall-2020.pdf

STRANGE NIGHT

It was a most unusual night
in the city, and a surprising number
of its residents took note of that
which in itself was unusual.

By 2:00 A.M., those awake and
those who had awakened
strained to hear it, but there
was nothing at all, no sounds

to which they had become
so accustomed, and some imagined
they had been transported
from the city to its suburbs.

The EMTs grew nervous,
the trauma center staff laughed
nervously at the lack of gunshots
and the shock of the silence.

POETS GATHER

One deep and abiding beauty of dreams
is that it is entirely logical for
Marina Tsvetaeva to be engaged
In an animated discussion with
Corso and Ginsberg where none will
acknowledge that the world they
wrote and imagined is a total mess.

Over in the corner, Mandelstam and
Reznikoff have agreed that for eternity
every game of chess they play will
result in a stalemate, if only
to drive Brodsky to distraction, that
and having Osip say he prefers
Reznikoff’s free verse translations
to Brodsky’s ponderous rhymes.

I am looking forward to a cup
of espresso with Sylvia Plath, but she
says here she only drinks single malt
Scotch until it’s at least 5 P.M.

A DAY

a day,
clouds drop rain
replacing tears
locked inside
stones and cloth
red and blue
unseparated
still worlds apart
orderly ranks
all at attention
and silence
thundering anger
a mad world
soaked in peace
only until
midnight.

Publsihed in New Feathers Anthology (Summer 2020)
http://www.newfeathersanthology.com/a-day.html

ON ARRIVAL

This morning arrived
with a painful slowness, the sloth
of irregular dreams refusing to concede
to the light struggling to creep around
the blinds that hide the oversize windows.

It had been that sort of night,
sleep arriving and departing with
a frustrating lack of constancy, my body
uncertain of its proper placement ,
the mattress offering no easy solutions.

Conceding the failure of the night
to provide shelter to an overactive mind,
I roll to my side, note the response
of sinew and muscles forced
into unaccustomed forms, and reach

out an arm which snakes across
your waist, as I press in more tightly,
squeezing out the last vestiges
of remorse, and I pull you close as you
reach back and stroke my thigh,

and we give ourselves over to a new day.

CUTTING THOUGHTS

My wife pauses by the placard
in the nature preserve and tells me
that what I have been calling grasses
are in fact a sedge known as sawgrass.

She points out the warning that
it’s serrated on the edge and earned
its name from those who grasped
it without knowing or thinking first.

I feign listening but she knows
my mind is elsewhere, knows I often
depart conversations suddenly
while maintaining a false presence.

She does not know I am 40 years
younger, pouring hydrogen peroxide
on the cut deep into the interossei
muscles when the glove slipped off

and the yucca I was boldly trying
to pull from the dry, stone like soil
had decided this was the moment
to extract its final revenge.

NATURE REMINDS

Last night, all the romantic
comedies worth watching
on Amazon and Netflix having
already been seen, many twice

we had no choice but to opt
for a coming of age tale on Netflix
accompanied by the mellifluous
tones of Sir David Attenborough.

In my dreams last night there was
a debate between the Gentoo
and Emperor Penguins as to which
was the more enrapturing,

and a Greek chorus of krill suggested
neither was worth our time or effort,
but the pod of Right Whales ended
their incessant commentary.

As I awoke to the cry of the limpkin
he reminded me that the ice cap
is ever shrinking thanks to my
kind, so I had best learn a few dirges.

UNCLE

My uncle writes his journal
in cramped Yiddish, English
will not do, it lacks the words
he says, to describe his world.

He describes the flavor
of the capon left to stew
on the stove, the sweet taste
of carrots and prunes.

He carefully notes the thumb
of the butcher sliding onto
the back of the scale, applying
just a dollar of pressure.

He writes pages of her
monologue, the slow twisting
of words stuck under his skin
like so many shoots of bamboo.

The language is sweet, he says
and when it is lacking, he
can reach into its roots
and graft a new word.

His journal sits on its shelf
gathering dust, its words
lost on my tongue, a tome
consigned to history.

First Appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Vol. 25, No. 1, Fall 1996.

SIPPING

I spent much of the afternoon trying
to imagine you, spending a small part
of an afternoon reading this poem.

I have no clear picture of where you are,
but the chair is well cushioned, and
you sit deeply in it, a glass of some

amber liquid on the glass and metal
end table, just within arm’s reach.
I suppose, since it is early afternoon,

it is iced tea, bit I wish it were a fine
IPA or better still a fine single malt,
though that much would give my poem

a meaning I never imagined, but
that might be an improvement, and
I think I’ll stop here and join you.

TESTAMENT

Christ and his disciples
walk slowly through the lobby
en route to the bar, discussing
the evil of war and blind obedience.
They push three tables together
and slowly drain the pitchers
of Bud draft, laughing
over the sound of the Karaoke.
As the evening draws itself
into night, he boasts
in Aramaic that he
has translated more than half
of the Bhagavat Gita,
although he much prefers
the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Satan, he suspects aloud,
is still trying fruitlessly
to finish Spinoza’s Ethics,
but without improved understanding
the old devil is doomed to failure.
As the night draws on, the hooker
hovers ever closer, and for a moment
he wonders if she would moan
as she feigned orgasm.
He lights another Camel
and crumples the empty pack
and throws it, knowing it will miss
the can and roll on the floor
under the bar rail, and he curses
in the ancient tongue.

First Appeared in Maelstrom, Issue 2, 2000