CURFEW

We sat in the cramped kitchen
huddled around the stove
the open oven door spreading
a faint warmth that barely
slid through the winter chill.
The bare bulb in the ceiling
strained and flickered
fighting to hold as the generators
were shut down, and darkness
enveloped our small world.
The sky was lit by the flares
and the odor of exploding shells
seeped through the towel
sealed windows covered
in the tattered bedsheets
too thin to afford warmth.
Ibrahim had been gone two weeks
sneaking out of the city
to join his brothers in Gorazde
or Tuzla, or wherever it was
that they were struggling
to save what little was left.
We huddled under the small table
and dreamed of the taste
of fresh bread, or even pork.
In the morning he would run
among the craters in the streets
in search of the convoy
and the handouts, which we
would raven as the sun set
over our war torn hell.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

WANDERING NO MORE

In my dreams I wandered
the alleys of Lisbon searching
for a familiar face, and many
came close, but no man stopped me
and asked if I was, by chance
his son, for he dreamed I
was what a son of his
would look like.

Now I have no need to wander
for I know he is in
a military cemetery
in Burlington, New Jersey,
and I doubt he had any
idea in life he had
another son, or a daughter
in Italy, for weekends
were quickly passed
when you had to be
back at the base
by midnight on Sunday.

WAR (an acrostic)

SOMETIMES A POEM CANNOT WAIT

From the moment it began, we knew, it was

obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,

Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,

killing women, children, destroying hospital, homes

raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.

All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid

in the hope that this proud nation could hold out

negotiate some sort of peace, maintain their freedom,

emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

SUDDENLY MORTAL

I now struggle to remember just when
my childhood suddenly ended, when
I became mortal, and the childhood fears
were replaced by those of the real world.

It might have been watching the news,
the planes at Dover disgorging coffin
after coffin, each neatly flag draped until
the flag became a symbol only of death.

It might have been the first time a kid
on the playground at school called me
Jewboy and asked why I didn’t also
perish in the ovens with my Polish kin.

It might have been as they wheeled me
into the operating room, my fever 105
unsure of what they would find, I then
unsure I would be alive to learn about it.

It might have been that as an adoptee
I knew I never had the childhood
of my natural born siblings, I always
the outsider, mom’s words notwithstanding.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

CANINE

The dog refuses to walk
around the house and check
the driveway, and so
the shells will rain on the village
as they do each time she senses fear.

She has a sight beyond that
I can fathom, curled under
the heat vent, as though
the cries of children carry
in her dreams, her tail
dances against the grate.

On most nights when she makes
her final trip, the automatic light
over the garage flips on
and we can all sleep peacefully
until we realize
that God has chosen
a furry surrogate, lives
resting between her paws.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

MASKING

The Air Force shaved our heads, was it
because of the heat of a San Antonio
summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools,
and easier for Sarge to maintain unit
cohesiveness in his rag tag band
of semi-successful Army avoiders.

Now we all wear masks and assume
we all look equally foolish, knowing
the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness,
and normal is insignia only to dreams
and at times life is shit on a shingle now.

We want our childhoods back, before
the war, before the barracks and bad
food, before expectations, and those few
imposed could be ignored at minimal
parental retribution, we want what
never really existed, it is our right.

We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”,
never believed it for a moment, but now
we consider it in passing as we walk
down the shortening pier
into the ocean of darkness.

First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021

FLIGHT

As a young child, I always imagined
myself a bird, poised to take wing
the next time my parents told me
I couldn’t do what I wanted,
to swoop around, out of their grasp,
until it was time for lunch or dinner.

Years later my dream was to be
a pilot, Air Force not Navy, I might
get seasick and that isn’t a sight
even I would want to see, until
I read Jarrell’s “The Death
of the Ball Turret Gunner,” and
the ground seemed a safer place.

Once in the business world, I
thought about some day retiring
young and seeing the world
on the cheap, Asia, Africa, Oceana,
and that lasted until the second
time I had to fly to Japan with
fourteen hours in a coach class
middle seat on a Boeing 747
when my backyard suddenly
became the future of my dreams.

A NAME

Someone said that you must name something
before you can really know it, and we
have gone about naming everything, even
as we know less and less about those things.

We have grown so adept at naming things,
that we have created multiple names
for the things that we find the most problematic,
for then they can be more easily ignored.

Where once we found ourselves in wars,
we now engage in armed conflicts,
police actions, and where we are the aggressor,
active dispute resolution operations.

The bodies that litter the battlefield
did not stop to consider whether they
were at war, and had morphed into police,
they did not resolve any dispute with their blood.