During the Presidential debate the other night the inevitable question was eventually asked. I have to say the answers were much as expected, exactly as scripted, and while “correct,” each candidate missed a golden opportunity. “On January 21, what will be the first thing you will do as President?” Most of the world’s problems made the list, immigration, climate change, wealth inequality, you get the picture. It was never mind that almost none of the things listed could be solved by an executive order, their hearts were in the right place. But no one hit the real mark. Ask me and the answer’s simple. My first act as President is to appoint the official White House herpetologist. It is a two for one appointment, after all. I get someone who can help me deal with Congress, members of both the Senate and House. But better still, when it hits the fan, and we all know it will, repeatedly, I have an expert who can explain that yet again, it is all the snake’s fault. That one has worked since Adam, and even the evangelicals and Catholics must agree on that one.
As a child I played Battleship
on a square grid, the ships marked
by hand, one for each of the players,
we were efficient by necessity.
My sons played Battleship, though
under a different name in deference
to my hatred of things martial,
on an electrically wired board.
My grandchildren haven’t yet
discovered the game, now played
on their iPads and iPhones, but it
is no doubt just a matter of time.
In Washington our president
plays the game with real ships
against China and Iran but it
is clear he doesn’t understand
how the game is played, and what
happens when you lose a ship,
but the sailors in the Navy know
all too well and dread the outcome
given his history in playing
against opponents who clearly
understand not only the rules
but also tactics and strategy.
It was the moment they said, we picked you, that I knew they had not. They thought they had to say it. They knew they shouldn’t. I was the next gumball down the chute. You put in your nickel, move the lever and wait. Actually it wasn’t quite like that. If you don’t like the color or flavor of gumball, you throw it out or give it to someone else. Spend another nickel, simple. In adoption, there was no do over. In my case as well. Well there was, actually, but if you give one back, you don’t get another unless there was a really big and hidden problem. Read the fine print, the lawyers say, adoptees come with no warranty, and you take us as is. You wouldn’t buy a car that way, would you.
You place the shroud
over my head,
it is dark, but I
can still touch her cheek.
You cut off
my fingers, leaving
only stumps, but I
can still taste her tears.
You pull out
my tongue, there is
only bitterness, but I
can hear her morning laugh.
You drown me
in a sea of noise
nothing breaks the din, but I
smell her sweetness.
You fill the room
with the acrid smoke
tearing at my nostrils, but I
can remember her love.
Publshed in Mehfil Issue #8, August 2020
He knew she had a special
meaning for him the first time
he saw her, from his usual seat
by the window in the diner, waiting
for his bagel and cream cheese,
and she at the table along
the window of the Starbucks across
the street, which might as well
have been an ocean, so unlikely
was either to make a crossing.
By the third time she had noticed
him, and offered a polite wave,
which he gladly returned, each
assuming it was an act of civility,
each, at least he, hoping it could be more.
He thought, briefly, about dashing
across the street and meeting her,
but he was no fan of coffee, less
by far of what Starbucks served,
and their bagels, well enough said.
So they went on with waves and nods,
until the day he looked and she
wasn’t there, and he knew she had
moved on without him, left him behind
or found a place with good coffee.
Publsihed in Mehfil, #8 August 2020
As we walked slowly through the Forum
the Coliseum receding into the late
afternoon, the Virgins stood patiently
as befits a priestess trained to avoid
the stares of passing men, even tourists
such as we were, the columns staring
down reminding us of our youth
despite the birthdays that we celebrated
with the joy of togetherness, and
the nagging knowledge that we were
another year closer to that moment
we refuse to acknowledge, aware
always of its growing proximity.
We stare back at the Coliseum,
as the sun slides behind its walls,
and as the vendors selling all manner
of items the buyer will regret
in mid-flight home pack up for the day,
I imagine Caesar pausing in thought
then, sneering, turning his thumb down.
A man stands on the peak of a hill,
staring down into the valley below him,
but it is not clear what he is staring at.
Standing in the valley, by the bank
of a slowly flowing river, I stare
up the tall hill to its peak, and see
the clouds gather around the man
as if soon to swallow him, and I wonder
what it is like to be eaten by a cloud.
The river flows slowly by, ignoring
the hill, with the man standing atop
its peak, ignoring me standing
on its bank, and ignoring the man
atop the ignored hill, staring at
the clouds, awaiting a hearty meal.
clouds drop rain
stones and cloth
red and blue
still worlds apart
all at attention
a mad world
soaked in peace
Publsihed in New Feathers Anthology (Summer 2020)
One morning last week I decided
to plant myself at a busy intersection
and begin reading poetry, mostly
my own, I have to admit.
I was generally ignored, my usual
state, and that sadly of most poets,
when a scruffy, bearded young man
set up easel and paint next to me.
The morning seemed to relish
the stillness of this urban way station,
and we were easily ignored by the odd
pedestrian on her way to please not here.
As lunch hour approached, the streets
filled, and we were ready, this was
our moment, our world, until the
asylum escapee joined our duality
and preached loudly to those who
dared not avoid us, that the end
was nigh, and that we, artist and poet
were the living promise of heaven and hell.
This morning arrived
with a painful slowness, the sloth
of irregular dreams refusing to concede
to the light struggling to creep around
the blinds that hide the oversize windows.
It had been that sort of night,
sleep arriving and departing with
a frustrating lack of constancy, my body
uncertain of its proper placement ,
the mattress offering no easy solutions.
Conceding the failure of the night
to provide shelter to an overactive mind,
I roll to my side, note the response
of sinew and muscles forced
into unaccustomed forms, and reach
out an arm which snakes across
your waist, as I press in more tightly,
squeezing out the last vestiges
of remorse, and I pull you close as you
reach back and stroke my thigh,
and we give ourselves over to a new day.