WALKING

Like the Anasazi’s sudden
departure from his cliff dwelling
I too snuck away, with hardly
any trace from a life no longer
in clear recollection, only faint
images survive, of hours
in the City Lights Bookstore
reading Corso, Ferlinghetti
and Ginsberg, then buying
the slim volume “Gasoline”
not because it was my
greatest desire, but its price.
Now the worn volume sits nestled
between Wilbur and Amichai,
a fond memory, like an afternoon
in the park in Salt Lake City
the tarot spread out before me
whispering their secrets
for the slip of blotter,
the small blue stain
bringing an evening
of color and touch
and that momentary fear
that nothing would again be
as I knew it to be.
The Anasazi knew
the arrow of time had flown,
had passed the four corners
where I lay in the street
another senseless victim
of a senseless war, while Karl
held the placard
demanding peace,
until the police urged us
to move along, and offered
the assistance we
were sworn to reject.
Now the corners seem
older, more tired of the life
that treads on them daily,
on my path to the Federal Courthouse
to argue a motion
where once we spilled
the red paint
the blood of our generation.
Now there is a wall
with their names,
a permanent monument
while we, like our Anasazi
brethren, are
but faint memories.


First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.

BENDING DREAMS

In Hawaii I could stare for hours at a taro field,
the bent back of a farmer, and the same a gentle fold
of spine I saw from the Shinkansen, Tokyo to Osaka
amid the fields of yellow, later rice in some bowl
perhaps even mine, or in Antwerp as the chef
patiently picked over the trays of mussels in the market
knowing just which would suit his needs, all having
a remarkable sameness to my eye and nose.
On the road just outside San Juan, near the beach
with surf-able waves, the woman stood bent in the heat
over a 50 gallon drum turned stove, cooking the pork
tucking it into the dough and placing it in the fryer oil
smiling through her few remaining teeth, offering pies
that we dared not resist, knowing the sea
would soon enough be our willing napkin.
This morning, as I took my slow walk
to the coffee shop, a jay sitting on a rusting fence
stared at me for a bit, not unnerving,
persistent, and I imagine him thinking
of taro, rice and fresh cooked pies.

WHISPERED SONG

“Oh, Woman who walks in beauty like the night
I am a friend who is distant and silent.” — Dineh Wind Prayer

We always sat
on the back bench seat
of the Collins Avenue bus,
stared out the big window,
noses pressed
against the cool glass,
stared at the procession
of stucco hotels,
simple neon signs,
lines of cars and
bathing suits.
My mother working
late into the night and
Beck, eternal friend
who buried her children
only to become a surrogate
mother to an orphaned son.

Beck would stroke
my forehead. At night
when the room was lit
by lightning, she cradled me
shielding my eyes
with sagging breasts
that had nursed three
daughters into womanhood,
later into the grave.

Beck whispered to me
in a mother’s voice —
my mother spoke
in another voice. I
stroked her wattled arms
watching the pouch
of skin swing gently.
Looking at my mother now
it is often Beck’s lips I imagine
kissing my cheek, “Aunt”
Beck, and not my mother
who still casts
disapproving glances
at failed attempts
at machismo, Beck’s
sparse gray hair
that rests on my shoulder.

I was Beck’s last
surviving child
a fourth daughter.
I am the last
to say Kaddish
to remember her
at Yizkor.

In the early morning
mirror, my eyes slowly
ceding sleep, my lover’s
sweat still beaded on
my arm, her taste lingering,
I see my beard fall away,
my skin is smooth, childlike,
my chest hair fades
replaced by nascent breasts,
testicles recede, hair grows
long, auburn, Beck’s face
as it once had been,
as it appeared
in the faded photographs,
stares back at me.

I am mute, wanting
her to draw me against
her shoulder, to make me
again – for a moment –
the fourth daughter
and not the son
she never had.
Next week I will go
to the aging schul,
I will sit among
the women, away
from dovening men, head
covered by the tallit.
I will sing
Kaddish to her.


First Appeared in Vent, Issue 1, 2003.

OBITS

You read the obituaries every day
not only for the confirmation that you
are not listed among them.
The key five words there are
not only for the affirmation, particularly
upon hearing the gentle man you liked,
but you also valued as a friend and craftsman
is gone, and you didn’t say goodbye,
that you thought “better him than me,”
that you hated that thought,
that you hated yourself for thinking it,
that nonetheless you are glad
it wasn’t you, was someone else,
just not him, just not someone you knew.
You weren’t in the obituaries today
and when you are gone, you won’t
be there to read it anyway, and you want
think “better him than you,”
and you promise you
will forgive those that think it.

APPROACHING NOW

I’ll be there soon,
so hang in there just a bit longer.
I do want to meet the beautiful young woman
you mentioned in our calls, or
is there more than one, because
while your vision is supposed to be good,
it seems almost all women younger
than a certain ever-increasing age
are now beautiful to you.
I don’t want to tell you I’m coming,
you’d forget anyway, and it could agitate you,
so I’ll just show up and hope you remember me
or can cover well, and we’ll visit.
I know the week after we see each other
you’ll ask when I’m coming to see you, and
like I have for years, I’ll say, “Soon, dad”
and I know you’ll be smiling in anticipation.

ESQUIRE

Even as a young child
I imagined being a lawyer
was a noble profession, spent
Sunday evenings in front
of the old Motorola TV watching
Perry Mason stride up to the rail,
stare into the witness’ eyes, with
Paul Drake smiling in the first row.
I tried to make my younger brother play Paul
but he was surly even at five
and said it was Hamilton Berger or nothing.
He never did get that Burger
never won a case, and the moment
I came to the real that realization, I knew
when it came to play acting in my world
it was the perfect role for my brother.
I’ve retired from practicing law now,
never tried a criminal case anyway,
and years ago gave up seeking
anyone quite like Della Street.

CRYPTIC (an acrostic)

God, it was a long night, unending
needs unsated, brought to the edge
man is a cruel beast, half master
as pleading supplicant, half slave
much the child, begging, wanting
as if food or thought would give
man humanity, elevated above
needs, existing outside, independent a
God, ruler of illusion and fantasy.


First Appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review, Vol. 3, No. 2, Summer 1996.