THE QUESTION

Even long after he had left
his childhood behind, or such
of it as he had actually had,
he could still stare up into
the night sky, at ceiling of stars
with more than a little awe.

And even though he had left
childhood behind, no one
had yet answered the one
question his parents ducked
time and time again, one
so simple a child knew
its answer, but asked anyway,
for validation or irritation.

If God created the heavens
why did He or She arrange
the stars so that people
could see in their order
other people, lesser gods
and all manner of animals?

COMING BACK

He appears, rising from the horizon
the sun at his back, as if a mirage
taking physical shape and form.

He approaches slowly, your eyes
straining to separate him
from the sun’s growing glow.

You wonder if his is a holy man
robed and with a staff, walking
to announce his long awaited return.

As he grows closer, you realize
he is a she , older, in a flowing
dress with a walking stick, not

the returner for who you wish,
but your faith requires that you
continue waiting in hope.

RETIRED

God sits at his easel, brush in hand
and thinks about the butterfly
alighting on the oak.
This man would rather paint
the nightmare of hell, but
he has been cast out and
his memory has grown dim.
He remembers being a small child
amused by the worm peering
from soil in a fresh rain and how
when he split it, both halves
would slither away
in opposite directions.
Now he rocks in the chair
and watches night fall
and shatter on the winter ground.

First Appeared in Medicinal Purposes: A Literary Review, Vol. 1, No. 6,
Spring 1997.

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrashes you at will,
the barb tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.

First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.

ON THE MESA

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
clouds building mountains
that threaten to eat the sun,
swallow the moon whole.

On the mesa you can step outside
and feel incredibly small,
listen to the coyotes with
the ears of scared children,
unable to run like the jackrabbit.

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
more stars than are possible,
and listen as the wind
whispers in the voice of God.

NOT YET

The man walked into the old diner
looking not at all happy,
dressed in what looked like
a white robe he found in some alley.

He ordered coffee and glanced
around, as if seeking one
familiar face, finding many
that looked like that

of his father, like him,
for that matter, and he knew
from this quick glance that
they were not yet ready,

not even close really, but he
had tried to tell Him that,
not that He listened, so the man
left some change on the table

walked out into the night,
and prepared to return home,
certain this visit, like the others
would never be deemed

a second coming.

BOOK TWO

So if I have it right, God
managed to come up with ten
plagues for Moses to visit
on Pharaoh, although at the time
Moses probably could not
understand why it was ten,
since God was boundlessly
creative, or so He told Moses.

Maybe it dawned on Moses
when wandering in the desert
that ten was a convenient number,
after all, he only gave Moses
ten commandments, but I doubt
he told Moses they were
a starter set and the other
603 would come along
in due course, but Moses
wouldn’t take the blame
for them, he’d be written
out of the story in Book Two.

IMMEASUREABLE

The distance between truth
and belief is as small as the width
of a hydrogen atom, yet
as wide as the diameter
of a galaxy of your choice.

You say truth is relative, I
know that it can morph
in the face of circumstance
but that hardly makes
relativity a factor in truth.

You say you believe in truth,
at least as you see it,
and question those who deign
to disagree, at times ignoring
evidence they might offer.

You say none of that matters,
for when the son of God
returns, all will be revealed
and truth will be declared
evidence to the contrary
be damned

CHRISTMAS

It isn’t my first Christmas
although almost so, that
part of me hidden for half
a century, its twisted discovery
filling a hole that I never
knew existed, yet always knew.

This is the strangest Christmas,
a time of gathering, now
in isolation, only pixels
and prayers on a too flat screen,
and it is hard, in times
of want and suffering, to recall
why we celebrate this day.

A child was born, and now
countless others will be,
and it is only the children
that recall his message, and
truly understand peace.

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021