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)

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ON MORTALITY

Death was never something we considered,
until that certain, ill-defined moment when
our immortality suddenly disappeared, and
in its place was a reality to be avoided.

Even once death became a shadow, always
lurking around us, we kept our face
toward the sun, so that death might
not be seen in the bright light of day.

When a sibling dies, it is always before
their time, before we are ready and
the death is anomalous, and one we grieve,
but as a cruel twist of fate not to be repeated.

Later death becomes a companion,
infrequent we hope, but ever present, and
all that is left for us is to consider which
is the less painful, the sudden departure
without warning or farewell, just gone,

or the slow erosion, a death mourned
during its process, a death of a thousand
goodbyes, until the last, and in the end
it becomes a distinction with no difference.


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

You sneaked away one night.
You were there, but while
sleep claimed me, you were gone
without notice or warning.
Where should I look for you?
In these barren hills
where the spirits of the first nations
roam, looking for their ancestral land?

Where should I look for you?
Wandering these verdant fields
where a hundred generations
have been sacrificed
to the will of power mad men
who know no satisfaction?

Where should I look for you?
In these filth ridden streets
and narrow alleys where
the rats scamper in search
of a meal, where a child
at play would be a fine repast?

Where should I look for you?
Across these wind blown sands
where brother has hunted brother
for three generations, each
laying God’s claim
to the birthright of the other
while wives and mothers
wail in mourning?


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

NIGHT

In the end, it always comes down to night,
regardless of the moon, if any, it’s faint light
drowned by the city’s oppressive glow,
headlights, streetlights and once,
spotlights painting the sky, traceable
down to that new place we don’t wish
or can’t afford, would never dare to go.
Death is omnipresent, his shadow is at least,
but at night he has greater freedom of movement
his reaches longer, less random
and we claim not to fear the night, the sun
assumes we mourn  its absence, and this
is true at some level beyond our comprehension,
but it isn’t the dark, that is their origin and
destination, it’s the hour at which we
cede control, and that, like the roller-
coaster in freefall, is what we so deeply fear

THE GIFTS

They brought him myrrh
on a flaming salver and all
he could do was say
“This is something I would expect
from a butcher or a carpenter,
and the camera angles
would never work, so bring
me napalm or punji stakes
that we have proven to work.”
They brought him ripe oranges
and the sweet meat of the pineapple,
its juice dripping from his chin,
and all he could do was tighten
his grip on the AK-47 and dream
of night on the edge of the jungle.
They brought him Rodin, Matisse,
Rembrant van Rijn, and Blake,
but all he would see was
Bosch and Goya, and then
only by the light of fading candles.
They brought him the String Quartet
in A Major played on Strads
and Guarnaris, but he
wanted the retort of the howitzer
the crump of the mortar,
the screams of the child.
They brought him his child
wrapped in bandages
missing fingers and toes,
and all he wanted was
the nursery, a newborn
in swaddling, suckling her breast
as he stroked her head
and remembered the moment
of her creation.


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

REMEMBERING ANOTHER FATHER

It was scrawled on the back of a grocery receipt, barely legible. Charles H. Boustead Tunnel, fryingpan river. The river is lower case, its capitals dangling by serifs in one of the tunnel grates that constricts the water’s flow.

Outside the full moon is ensnared in the gnarled, barren branches of the white birch. She struggles vainly to break free, but the maple wraps its limbs around her. It is only when she retreats into the earth, covers herself over, that the trees cede their grasp.

When Luna curls against you, is she chilled from the night sky, or does she reflect the warmth of the distant star? Does she press against the shredded satin, wrap herself in the fringe of your kittel? And when she tires of you, does she leave by the rotting, split pine boards through which you, bit by bit, return to the soil to nurture her captor?

I stand outside, shivering under a full January moon. Fading impressions of you are shunted into the tunnel of my memory. I never know where or when they will emerge, what they have gathered, what has been lost along the way. I hope for their return, regardless of form. The Boustead Tunnel carries about 54,000 acre feet of water annually from the river to the Turquoise Reservoir.

TRES PIEDRAS

We remember the oddest moments of life,
the tragedies, the occasional comedy,
but mostly the unusual moments that etch themselves
into memory in ways you would not have expected.
Driving along the mostly deserted road,
a moonless night, or nearly so, the Mesa
cold and forbidding, not at all reminiscent of the birth
to be celebrated by the world
the next day, as it had for millennia.
The movie was dark and heavy,
the meal somewhat the same,
dominating the conversation… THUD —
a sudden shift left into the oncoming lane,
no one, thankfully, oncoming, the door caved in,
passengers’ bones checked, none broken, all badly shaken.
In the beam of the flashlight, is an elk, sitting
off the road, still much alive but shaken, and
in the first light of morning, moved further
into the scrub, and by afternoon, off into the foothills.