The waiter we know so well
tells tonight’s server
that we are poets and she
should ask us to order
in iambic pentameter.
We write him a limerick,
which she delivers with a smile
before returning with our wine
and a pad to take our order.
She seems somewhat sad
when our order lacks rhythm
and I explain that vegetarian
just will not be iambic.
she smiles and says until the meal is done
one night only can’t you just be vegan
even if dessert must be dactylic.
I am honored that this poem was just published in the Fall/Winter Issue of the Atlanta Review,
I had dinner the other night
with Rav Hillel
in a small Chinese place
just off Mott Street.
I asked him what it was like
in the afterlife, after all the years.
It gets a bit boring, he said,
now that old Shammai
has lost his edge,
just last month
for each Chanukah night
he lit four candles
from the center out
in each direction.
I told him
the steamed pork buns
were beyond belief,
he said try the shrimp dumplings
even better if you eat them
standing on one foot.
I asked him how he spent his days
and he only smiled,
most days I search
for Van Gogh’s ear
though that alte cocker Shammai
says it was Theo’s ear
that Vincent lopped off,
although Vincent wore
a bandage around his head.
It’s really not so bad
he said, there’s even
a lovely sculpture
just inside the garden gate
that bears a striking resemblance
to old Lot’s wife, not that she
was ever capable
of sitting still all that long.
He bid me farewell
and though I looked
for a fiery chariot,
he climbed into
his ’91 Taurus
with the hanging bumper
and rust spots, and drove slowly off.
Thanks for dinner, he shouted,
as I footed the bill yet again.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
The question of the day is
would you rather be a turtle
or a snail, not to be sung
to any melody by Paul Simon.
Think carefully, for one day
the question will have real impact
and you will get your answer
with a permanence that merits
the most careful consideration.
Today may or may not be that day.
And please note, your choice is snail
or turtle, not a land tortoise, so longevity
shouldn’t come into play at all.
So, yes, it all comes down to this,
some child may try and grab you
and put you in a glass terrarium
and try to make a vegetarian of you
or people will moan, seeing your tail
and imagine you served with shallots
In a small pond of melted butter.
The radio is suddenly blaring
and the clock of the stove says
seven o’clock but the window retorts
it is winter when there is no time.
You pull up your collar
as you prepare to leave.
At the store, pick up
a baguette, it will go well
with a pork tenderloin
with a sauce of Portabello mushrooms
and haricots, if you can find them
or green beans, if not.
The old dog stares at the door
debating the frigid tongue of the wind
or a burdened bladder.
She barely sets paw on the lawn,
squats and returns to her mat
in the front foyer.
Shake the snow from your collar
and leave your boots on the mat
while I warm the coffee left
from this morning and then
we will unpack the groceries.
First published in Potato Eyes Vol. 14, 1997
The key to a simple meal
is to cook the rice until each grain
sits comfortably next to its neighbor
without touch or embrace.
On this, pour a bit of miso
diluted by water of a stream
or pulled from deep within the earth.
Top it all with finally cut
vegetables, carefully strewn
as you would seeds of grass
for a deep, even lawn, but here
with sufficient space that
the once white, now gently beige surface
is dotted with color, so many
islands in a slightly muddy stream.
When you are done eating
the last grain of rice from the bowl
consider how many grains have
you have eaten and give
thanks to the farmer for each one.
He said, “I’m looking forward
to heaven for a reason you cannot
begin to imagine, and, not
that I want to rush my arrival.”
She said, “It’s rather audacious
to assume you’ll end up there,
I place the odds as at best at
50-50 and I’m being generous
because I’m still in love with you.”
“But you’ll never guess the reason
so I’ll just have to tell you.
You know how much I love
rich buttery sauces, the more
butter and ] heavy cream the better?
In heaven I can have all I want
without worry about cholesterol
and arteriosclerosis and that would
certainly be heaven to me.”
“You realize,” she replied, “that
there’s a better than even chance
that God as creator of everything
might just be a vegetarian, like
we all were in the garden, so
Just in case, eat your Brussels sprouts.”