SHINKANSEN VIEW

At first it was a checkerboard of ponds
neatly arrayed, reflecting the sun,
the work of man, for God so rarely
plays geometrician with creation, less
often still using right angles.
Soon enough green blades reach up
through the shirred surface, random,
reaching for a sun they can never touch.
It is a field soon, the water
pooling at the roots is lost
in the emerald sea its waves
now generated by the wind
from the distant mountain.
It is marigold yellow now, fading
day by day to curry, the spikelet
slowly letting go their grip
on the grains that will soon lie
on the bamboo mats, drinking
the last of the sun they will know.

THE FIRST JEW ON MARS

The first Jew on Mars

sifts the red sands through gloved fingers
and kicks the small stone,
glares up at the heavens
the cold sun returning his stare
and waits patiently
for the rain of manna.

looks vacantly across the landscape
and curses under his breath
at the absence of a good
lean pastrami and a half sour,
or even Chinese take out.

pauses to wonder why God
left so much unfinished,
an endless desert to be wandered
for countless lifetimes,
no further tablets forthcoming —
perhaps He was tired, needed rest —
each day is Sabbath.

struggles to remember
the smoke rising from the chimneys,
the souls of a generation
whispering “do not forget us.”

shouts the Shema
to the void, imagining
it is falling on deaf ears.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).

WHAT DID YOU DO

When they asked him
what did you do during the war
he said “I just stood guard.”
When they asked him where
he said “A station, just
a station, like most others,
I just stood guard.”
When they asked him
did you see the trains
carrying the bodies crammed
into cattle cars
he said “I saw many trains,
it was just a station, but mostly
I looked at the sky, wishing
for the sun, but mostly it was gray
and there was smoke
from the chimneys.”
When they asked him
why did you wear
the lightening bolts
he said “I was a ski instructor
but I broke my leg
so I stood at the station,
just a station like most others.”
When they asked him
did he know of the ovens
he said “They made bread
which we ate each night
when there were no potatoes.”
When they asked him
about the Jews
he said “I knew no Jews;
there were none in the town
where I stood guard
at a station, just
a station like most others.”
When they asked him
what he did after the war
he said “I prayed, just
prayed for my sins,
sins like those
of so many others.”

GODS ONCE

The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.

SHE HOPES

Faith is something, she says,
that everyone has, it is just
that some don’t recognize it,
even while the coin is flipping
through the air and the desired
outcome is whispered in the mind.
She believes that life is a joy,
but that it is also
heaven’s waiting room, and while
there may be a trap door out,
she knows where it is and can avoid it.
She says she’s enjoying the show
but this is just the opening act
and it’s the headliner she came to see.
He smiles, imaging his next life
certain this is just one life in
and eternal groundhog day of existence.

GENESIS

Cain slew Abel
in a moment of anger,
a crime of passion
would be his defense today.
We can only imagine
what Isaac might have done
to Ishmael, had Hagar
not been sent off by Abraham,
after all he was a child
who saw the knife first hand
and helped sacrifice
the thicketed ram.
Joseph tasted the pit
at his brothers’ hands
mourned by his father
only to emerge and forgive.
It is little wonder
we Semites can’t get along,
Jew and Jew, Israeli
and Palestinian, we’ve
been rehearsing this act
for millennia.


First published in Children,Churches & Daddies vol. 141 (2004) and later in The Right To Depart (Plain View Press, 2008).