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.

KIKE

Third grade, religious school
kikes, us, then a backhand
raised, drawn, quickly dropped,
below a reddened face,
sleeve pulled up
145233 in black
between elbow and wrist
and a tear, perched
fearing to fall.
Never again, and nothing more,
later, same arm
ruffling hair, smoke
clinging to aging skin,
no older when he walked
in her arms into
infernos then smoke
rising slowly as he
labored, no more free
than on cattlecars
shivering in winter.
No hell to come,
never again, not Juden.
Mahogany doors
opened on oiled hinges
ancient scroll to be touched,
here is you, me, us, always
on Massada, in Vilnius.
Never again kikes,
dying only once.


First published in SNReview Vol. 9, No. 2  (2007)

For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:

Bird-of-the-day.com 

KAFKA

June 13, 1896, Prague
a warm day, old stone schul
you stood before the minyon
wearing the skullcap
repeating ancient words
that lay on paper, rehearsed
sounding false on a tongue
swollen in anxiety.
Your tallit, white
woven with blue threads
hung at your knees
fringe fingered, rolled
and unrolled, twisted
until touched to skin
words inscribed, etched
into collective memory.
Seventeen years later
sitting with Buber
did words come back
and stick on your tongue
and later still
when you studied
under Bentovim, did words
take form, shape, dredging
up a past kept suppressed
walking in desert heat
knowing salvation was
down a hill, entry forbidden.
Lying in your bed
in Hoffman’s Sanitorium,
the trees of Kierling blooming
did you recite Kaddish
as endless night engulfed you.


First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)

For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:

Bird-of-the-day.com 

HOLY VISIONS

Night has swallowed the city
and in the laundromat, dryer 42
decries her loose drive belt.
The young girl turns, “can you see it
the Virgin Mary, in the glass porthole”.
No, I think, only white cotton panties
and several pair of jeans
in endless rotation.
“She speaks to me, asking
for my forgiveness for the burden
she has delivered to us
and though I try to give her absolution
she will not listen. Talk to her,
maybe it is a male voice she needs
to ease her mourning.”
I stare fixedly at the washer
as the light for final rinse snaps on,
“she knows you, she is waiting,
so talk into the camera, that one
with the red light, and tell her
that you forgive, as your forgave
the other Mary, who you redeemed.”
The dryer slowly grinds to a halt
and the young girl grimaces,
“she is gone, so perhaps she heard
what I could not, and I thank you”.
She wanders out onto the street
and fades into the shadow
outside the penumbra of the streetlight.


First published in Prairie Winds (1999)

For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:

Bird-of-the-day.com 

DEAD OR JUST RESTING?

Some people say religion
is dead, or at least mortally wounded.
In my generation, closer
to death than puberty,
there is some truth to that thought
because God seems a whole lot less
responsive these days, our peers beginning
to fall like lemmings from the cliff.
But the young clearly have found
what has gotten so far away from us,
and they have gone so far
as to personalize God, something
we never dared do for fear of hell
for the wrath of our parents and
loss of use of the car.
Today, even in school and at the mall
their faith is on display
on their smart phone screens,
secretly genuflecting each time
they mention OMG.

VESPERS

The sun slowly starts
it’s daily retreat, setting
the thinning clouds ablaze.

The birds return, ibis,
egrets, anhinga and kite
and even the limpkin
march slowly across
the lawn to the preserve
that abuts our yard.

They take up their perches
on the trees and bushes
and on the limpkin’s call
begin quietly to recite
their evening prayers
as we bow our heads
in reverence to their faith
that the new morning
will soon dawn for us all.

NIL

I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia


It was supposed to be
the simplest of all the numbers
nestled neatly in the center
of the number line.

For years its logic
evaded our efforts
to comprehend its simplicity.
It didn’t look particularly daunting
round and symmetrical.

But it was its underlying defiance
that always plagued us.
You could easily add it
but always without effect.

You could take it away
and never know
it had left, yet try
to multiply it, for multiplication
we were told, is nothing more
than repeated addition
and your efforts came to naught.

It was insignificant
and without substance
to the point that we
gave it little mind
until we tried to divide with it
and found it grew
beyond the scope
of our imagination.

We followed it
as it would roll away
ever gaining speed
until it was swallowed
by the void.

We chased it
running ever faster
until we saw our heels
flashing across the pavement
always a step ahead.

Years later, the half drunken
professor stood leaning on the lectern
to maintain a tenuous grip
on his waning reality
asked what came before
the big bang.

It’s easy I thought,
the same as who created God
and I stayed silent
in response.