ANGELS

He says he cannot believe in angels
because he has never seen one.
I do not believe in his sort of angels, but not
for lack of visual confirmation, rather
that I live in a world that now
is so deeply in need, that an angel
might be our last, best hope, but
the scope of angelic miracles is
not likely wide enough to encompass
the utter disaster which we have created.

I tell him that I do believe in angels,
that I have met several in my life,
and scowl when he laughs so that
he must consider that I am serious,
and then he asks what an angel
looks like, so he will recognize one
when and if he ever sees one.

I advise him that you don’t have
to search all that hard, that you merely
need to be aware, and watch the face
of the baby when you stop and coo
at him or her as they lie in their stroller,
staring up at the always welcoming sky.

NEATNESS COUNTS

Ice, he said, is clearly an invention
of Satan, the ice cube a scaled down
version of that corner of hell of which
no one ever speaks, so little known.

And stop and think, we got by well
for eons without a cube of ice, unless
with blade we chipped it from
a nearby glacier or left water out
in the dead of winter, which never
worked all that well in much of the world.

Whiskey, that was one of our best
innovations, one of which we are
rightfully proud, one which we
have practiced for untold generations.
We’ve been sipping it and drinking it
from the word go, and each culture
has come up with its own version,
and it is only recently that the devil
gave us the means of denigrating
one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

God, mother told us, prefers things
neat, as they were intended, so clearly
ice is the Devil’s work. Turn away!

Q.E.?

Religion, he said, is inherently illogical
and the older the religion, the more illogical
it becomes, accreting absurdity over time.
A corollary of this proposition is that
the more organized a religion claims to be,
the more its spirituality is buried under
rules and regulations which only illustrate
the principal proposition set forth above.
Humans create religion not to explain
the unexplainable but to justify ignorance
and their unwillingness to search and risk
finding answers that conflict with their
desired view of life and decomposition.
But, he concluded, do not for a second believe
that atheists have it right, for theirs
is a religion of utter illogic and rigidity
certain of the nonexistence of an idea that they
believe they can demonstrate, but have not,
and they will be damned if they will stop trying.

WINTER MEMORY

As a child I know the winters
must have been milder, as it
was never too cold to have my parents
take is to Sheridan Park where
my father would drag the old
wooden toboggan up the chute
adjacent to the stairs as we ran ahead,
and smile as we hurtled down
seeing how far we could go
across the snow packed runway.

After an hour, when our hands
were blue, the mitten clips
long since defeated, he would
once again smile as we drove
to Louie’s for a foot long and
a couple of orders of curly fries.

I’m thinking the weather changed
right about the time my parents
packed off to Florida, as if God
had given them some Noah-like
warning that winters would soon
get ugly, or maybe He was just
trying to help Detroit, since my step-
siblings had to have certain cars,
while I struggled through winter
in the north in my leaky, rusting Opel.

I SPEND THE EMPTY HOURS

I spend considerable time thinking
about what it is that I am, what is I,
whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s
could possibly exist, or must if I can have
meaning beyond self-reflection, needing
a godly mirror, and image reflected.
Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion
what logical proof, carefully constructed will
not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito
but of what? Keys that spit words that fade
under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web
twisting, unable to pull free, staring at
an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness
Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate
emotions, control impulses which leap synapses
and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed
I have violated laws and statutes and I beg
forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito
who has no external reference save God
which makes all things real, all illusion.
It is comforting knowing in death the soul is
carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease
such that I am not for I think not, yet why should
I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been
save as a reference point, a linchpin from which
may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.

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

WORMHOLE LOGIC

Getting a headache, are we? You feel like Schrodinger’s cat. It’s really like asking yourself if the Big Bang was the beginning of everything, what was there in that split second before the Big Bang? If God created everything, what created God? If time begins with the Big Bang, what time was it before there was time? And who are you really, if you know your are merely an illusion created by you? And please tell me, what time is it? Find the black hole, for there is freedom.

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

ISRAEL’S JUSTIFICATION FOR THE BOMB

Once it was fur hats
men on horseback
swords and torches
our villages casting a faint glow
falling into dying embers,
here, one whose skull
bears the mark of the hoof,
there an old one
who would go no farther.

Once it was a helmet
tanks for horses
flames contained in crematoria
cities taken for the deserving
we, merely ashes
shoveled into a pit,
here a tooth, its gold
torn free and cataloged
first the old ones
who could go no farther.

And so we have learned,
we in our kippot
we in our planes
and if you do not hear we
will give you the holy fires of God
you and your villages a faint shadow
and so much vapor, so much ash
carried on his holy breath
for we have learned well
and we have fused these words
in our minds, never again.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

HISTORY

Deep in the valley of memory
on the altar of Ares
we sacrifice them, always young
each generation we are
Abraham unrestrained,
the pardon always moments late.
We are Olmecs, relying not
on the sun’s passage
but on a mainspring tightly wound.
Our gods hunger and must
be sated lest we lose favor
and their image change.

In our boneyard
priests and victims
slowly decompose
fade into earth
washed deep
by tears of Gods
powerless to intervene.

First published in The Peninsula Review, Vol. 5, (1998)

RIDING THE WASTELAND

We set out with bold ambition,
egos saddled and reined
across a landscape left barren
by our leaders who saw
only carefully stacked boards
and beams awaiting the master
carpenter, great floral sprays
dotting the lobbies of glass
and chrome edifices, created
in their own images.
We ride in search of
the promised land, and turn
a deaf ear to the windwalkers,
to the spirits of the children
sitting in the packed dirt streets
their bellies distended, crying
out for food, for justice
as the warlords sit in their cars
surveying the invisible parapets
of their armed fortresses.
We look quickly away
from the chindi of the young men
who rise from the neatly heaped soil
of the common burial mound, who
rise up in neat array and perch
on the edge of the freshly dug pit
waiting for the rat-a-tat rain
of death they know await them
unrepentant, unwilling to curse
Allah, bidding farewell to Tuzla.
We pause to chant the blessing way
but we have forgotten the words,
Arbeit Macht Frei, the gates
reduced to rust, the chimneys
no longer belching the sweet
smell of death into the winter morning.
We ride on oblivious to the faint glow
from the craters we have torn
into the earth, of the clouds
that only vaguely recall
the mushrooms of our progress.
We ride toward the horizon
where the great pillars of gold
and silver rise up, glinting in the sun
that once warmed them before
we cast them out into the desert
of our lust and craving.
We set out with bold ambition
but our horses have grown tired,
our canteens are empty
and the inferno threatens
to consume us.


First Appeared in Alchemy, Issue 2, Fall-Winter 1999.