MID MORNING SONG

He leans against the wall
outside the Prêt à Manger
witting with his dog
on the old Mexican blankets
that look uniquely out of place
on a cool London morning.
He sips the now fetid coffee
in its Styrofoam cup,
its Burger King logo
and temperature warning.
His hair is long, mostly
gray with streaks of white,
his beard white
with swaths of blond, he
looks as though he
just stepped down the plank
of the great sailing ship,
returned from a voyage
save for his tattered, stained
Manchester United sweatpants.
I put 50p in his metal box
against my better judgment
and stroke behind the ears
of the placid dog.
“May you be many times praised”
he sputters, through teeth
stained tobacco brown,
“for with more like you,
Rufus here, and I shall later
enjoy a fine repast.
May Saint Dymphna be praised.”
In the taxi to Paddington Station
I wonder who my patron
might be, if Jews
only had Saints.

First published in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Issue Two
https://sidewayspoetry.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/london-issue-2-1.pdf

MY RABBI (PART 2)

I tell him I am thinking of becoming
a rabbi, someone just like him,
a man who saw so many through
all manner of crises, joyous events.

He sits back in his unsteady chair,
one he refuses to replace, this one
finally broken in, he says with that
gentle smile that melts anger, anxiety.

You would do well at it, I know, he says,
and I will gladly write you a recommendation
but think about this carefully, it is
not the life you might imagine it to be.

But before you decide, he adds,
reaching among a stack of books,
read these, handing me two volumes
that I did not imagine would change my life.

And somewhere, I have my own copies
of Alan Watt’s “Beat Zen, Square Zen and Zen”
and “The Book:On the Taboo Against
Knowing Who You Are?”, and I then knew.

MY RABBI (PART 1)

If you ask why I am a Buddhist
I will tell you there are a myriad
of possible reasons, choose one,
or take this one, it fits nicely.

I am in college, pulling my grades
up to mediocre, thoughts of medicine
gone, law only faint on a distant horizon
a master’s degree away.

I visit my childhood rabbi, a man
who has been my guide through much.
I peer into his office, his door removed,
and he bids me to come in and sit.

I do, slowly, carefully negotiating
around stacks of books piled
on every possible flat surface,
the walls covered in bookcases

straining to hold their loads, I
knowing a too loud sound, a jostle
and the avalanche would be
impossible to stop, disastrous.

EIRE

They say you must cherish
your memories lest they slip
away in the night, trying for
a freedom you deny them.

I remember Ireland, knowing
it was home although at the time
I thought I was Ashkenazi
and Portuguese, but my genes
were trying to tell me something.

I remember driving a stick
shift down narrow roads,
always keeping in mind
the advice, “if you hear
the branches of the yellow
gorse against the side
of the car you’re fine, if
you hear the stone of the fences
you’ll have a large bill
when you return the car.

And Guinness on tap, always
Guinness on tap.

WHY NOT AN ELEVENTH?

The internet, he said, was God’s gift to Satan, but Satan returned it within the warranty period since it didn’t bring him nearly as much business as he had hoped. That, and the broadband in Hell was iffy most of the time, something about the heat, like broadband in Florida in the summer, only worse. God didn’t particularly want it, so he gave it to humans, figuring one more plague might keep them from begging for all manner of selfish things.

WASHING OUT

I wrote down the biggest
mistakes I made in life
on the backs of newly fallen
maple leaves, and carried them,
a fair number, to the river.

I cast them onto the water,
some quickly swept up,
a few lingering on a fallen
tree partially damming
the flow, waiting for this.

Most disappeared as
the water approached
the falls, cascaded over
on its way to the waiting lake
and then to a place unknown.

This was an act of catharsis,
for the maple, if not for me,
a freedom, not to bear
the burden of impending winter,
frozen still with regrets.

UNKNOWING

Twenty years ago today
and there was no band playing,
at least not for me, for I knew
nothing of you yet, and you
knew nothing of me either.

I have met you since
in a moment of silence,
looking at a yearbook picture
knowing what was not, what
never was or could be.

I recite the Kaddish
even though my Judaism
has been laid to rest,
knowing what is, and
imagining what might have been.

A DECIMAL SYSTEM

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.

First Published in Half Hour to Kill, August, 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/a-decimal-system-by-louis-faber