NAMENCLATURE

I have gone
by many names,
some chosen,
some inherited,
some thrown at me
in anger,
in scorn,
in friendship.

Names add
nothing to who
I am, who
I choose to be,
who I am seen
to be by the those
who throw around
names as if
they were magical
incantations, elixirs
with great power
that fall
at my feet
like shattered
icicles of my
not caring.

LAMBERT FIELD

The gravestones, in random shapes line the hill
the morning chill
creeps between them and onto the runway
until washed away
by the spring sun slowly pushing upward
as the jet noise washes the hill unheard

He passed away quietly in his bed
ending his dread
of the cancer slowly engulfing him
his vision dimmed
by the morphine that pulsed through his veins.
He paused to remember the first spring rains.

She selected the plot on the hillside
she would confide
to friends, so that he might see the valley
at long last free,
to see the flowers bloom in early spring,
the land that was his home and he its king.

One summer the caskets were carried out
while the devout
cursed the sacrilege of the master plan
of the madman
who decided that the airport must sit
on the hill, his valley forever split.

The jets rush over the cemetery
February
snows blown across the gravestones in their wake
as one snowflake
melts slowly on the ground, a falling tear
which, unheard, marks another passing year.

First Appeared in Candelabrum Poetry Magazine (UK), April 2002.

DEEP

Deep beneath the Arctic ice
the whale songs shimmer
in the harsh light
of a frozen sun.
We strive to hear them,
hear nothing, hear only
our thoughts echoing
through cavernous memories.
With thoughts of what was,
what we wish had been,
we are ambient noise
in a universe which
cradles hope, craves silence.
Dolphins dream of days
when the sea was theirs,
lives lived in a slow paradise
a world the land- bound
would never comprehend
even as they laid waste to it.

First published in Zephyr Review, Issue 1, May 2022
https://zephyrreview.com/issues/

TREASURES

I keep in my pocket
all the treasures of my family,
all of the keepsakes from my mother,
and those from my father
given to me when they died.

I would share them with you,
but they are highly personal
and would not mean much to one
who never knew my parents
or my step brother, the one

with whom I have not spoken
since the text announcing
our father’s death, so I cherish
what I have in my pocket for
nothing was all I hoped for.

RETIRED

God sits at his easel, brush in hand
and thinks about the butterfly
alighting on the oak.
This man would rather paint
the nightmare of hell, but
he has been cast out and
his memory has grown dim.
He remembers being a small child
amused by the worm peering
from soil in a fresh rain and how
when he split it, both halves
would slither away
in opposite directions.
Now he rocks in the chair
and watches night fall
and shatter on the winter ground.

First Appeared in Medicinal Purposes: A Literary Review, Vol. 1, No. 6,
Spring 1997.

ASHES TO ASHES

He says he wants to know
what I want done with my ashes
knowing I want to be cremated.

I tell him I need to think
about that for a while, knowing
that “while” could be an ever
shortening lifespan, but I
dare not tell him that, it
simply wouldn’t be acceptable
he would respond, setting off
another endless discussion.

I don’t say that time, in this
rare instance, is on my side
for truth be told I don’t care
what he does with my ashes,
I am gone and that’s that ,
bit a nice spot in the center
of the mantle in the formal
living room would be nice.

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrashes you at will,
the barb tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.

First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.

YOU ARE INVITED

I have to compliment you,
after all you ignored me
for four years in high school,
condemned me to the outcasts,
the geeks, the losers, the barely
tolerated and then only when
the Headmaster was watching.

I didn’t go to your parties,
no one without an invitation
ever dared, was left to the
clubs no one wanted to join,
but I have to say I was
truly surprised, shocked almost
when your letter came,
reminding me of our great
years of friendship, our
camaraderie then, but
regrettably I must decline
to contribute to our class fund.

A RETURN SOMEDAY

Some day I need to return
to Tokyo and walk its streets
listening for the soundtrack
that Haruki Murakami requires
of the city, bebop jazz
in Shinjuku, classical when
wandering Asakusa and Senso-ji,
and rock on the streets of Shibuya.

I have often been there, but
my soundtrack was that
of horns and the clatter
of a pachinko parlor, or
the pitched giggles of young
girls walking hand in hand
down Omotesando, dreaming
of what they could buy
in the shops of Aoyama.

DREAMS

It starts quickly and unexpectedly. You do not know when it will start, why, or what it will bring. There are times when even after it is done, you cannot be certain what it was, what it did, what it meant. Often, though, you forget it before you have time to capture it. It is evanescent, an intense glimmer that can quickly fade to a void, as though it was never there. You wish you could capture it, but you know well that dreams act under their own rules.