AND PEACE?

Santayana said, “Only the dead
have seen the end of the war.”
We have grown adept at wars,
no longer global in scope, but
ubiquitous in frequency.

Mine was fought in the rice
paddies of Vietnam, and on the
campus where we struggled
valiantly and vainly to protest,
and when that failed, in the heat
of Texas, marching about, going
thankfully nowhere, shipped
to Niagara Falls when the Air Force
could think of nothing better
to do with the likes of me.

I didn’t die, know several who did
and sadly know Santayana was right
for Bierce said it best, “In international
affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.”

NONATTACHMENT

There was the collectivist period,
those years when I wanted
a copy of every book on Buddhism
I could locate, a full and nearly
complete library, sutras and
philosophical discourses included.

There was the moment when I
realized the absurdity of all that,
the attachment to texts
to enable me to find the ability
to practice non-attachment,
and I gave the books away,
and finally set off on the path
the books only poorly described.

WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

DEMANDED TIME

I’ve made a practice
which feels more like a demand,
that each day I take a few
moments or more and stop
whatever else I was, or
should have been, doing
to write a poem.

There are days, perhaps this
one where it seems more
a short bit of prose to which
I have added line breaks
despite the protest
of the words, condemning them
to bear the mockery, and
others when I take a poem,
ignore its inherent rhythm
and pass it off as prose,
that insult remembered,
the words plotting revenge
but lying low, waiting
for the perfect moment
to destroy a poem I know
is worthy of publication.

FORGOTTEN SOULS

From the heart of the inferno
Dante and Lucifer grow bored
waiting, waiting for the ferry
while Charon stops for lunch
yet again at a Greek diner
in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen.
They take up a game of catch
tossing Molotov cocktails,
raining fire onto the brimstone,
setting the Styx ablaze.
Each knows this is not necessary,
for necessity is a creature
of heaven and there is no room
for the extraneous here
in the realm of forgotten souls.
We watch from deep within
a nightmare of our darkest
memories, certain that heaven
must await us, or purgatory
if that is how our fate
is to finally be written.
The angels dance on the ceiling
waiting for the precise moment
to break Morpheus’ grasp
and drag us back to our reality,
to continue our dance
between heaven and hell.

First published in Fresh Words Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3, June 2022
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G9eVgBt1ZS1syN9RruNQLzt7-JVq04sY/view

TOODLE-OO

So, Bly, you have finally
gone and joined the parade,
holding out the longest as though
that was a badge you could
somehow carry out with you.

Take consolation that you
bested Ginsberg and Corso
and even outlasted Ferlinghetti,
though he was giving you
a run for your money.

And Plath, well she
was the first, far too young
everyone said, but now I
am left with the newer
generation and I miss
you old timers, who did not
need to experiment to find
your truth and share it,
but I understand your
reluctance, for I am
all too rapidly, if unwillingly
preparing to join
the parade as well.

HE WAS

He was a writer. That is what he told people who asked what he did. Although he said it was what, no who he was. He said he wanted to be the sort of person that Stalin feared, a man of ideas, maybe someday, in an Alexieian world, charged with a crime of holding an audience hostage with the idea of a gun. But he knew somewhere along the way, the weapon would have to be fired. That was Chekov’s rule and he was one to obey the great writers.

PAPER CUTS

Paper is at once both
the cruelest invention a writer
may have stumbled across
and also her salvation.

The blank page invites,
often demands the pen
and is unjudging, yet the poet
may change or delete
but the paper retains the original
and throws it back in his face.

The computer, many say,
changed all of that, backspace
or highlight and delete and
that mistake, misuse, misadventure
is gone forever, but
with a wrong keystroke
all you may have is a blank screen
and your words so well shaped,
thoughts perfectly expressed
can be lost in the ether.

Where did I put that pen?

YOU, REALLY

Would it surprise you to learn
that like most writers, I
have spent more than a little
guilty time trying to imagine
what you look like, what you know
you should be doing
while you are reading this poem.

And I do wish I couild see
your face as you read it, knowing
it is a conversation where
you want to speak, to tell me
that you like my work, that
reading me is a complete
and utter waste of time,
but you cannot, so I will
conclude that you do like
my work or else you would
not be reading this in the first place.