YIDDISH

My grandmother lapsed
into Yiddish only on special occasions
“where other words won’t fit”
she said, where there is
no English to describe
the indescribable, blessed
be He, but we knew
that it was merely
a convenient way to keep
us out of the conversation,
while they clucked.
Mah Johng is a game
that can only be played
in Yiddish, she said,
to hell with thousands
of years of Chinese history.

She remembers the Golem
she met him once
on Fourteenth Street
when she still had
the liquor store.
She thought it strange
that he wanted gin
and not Slivovitz
but Golem can be strange
under the right circumstances,
and he did speak Yiddish.

AWAITING

He strains mightily to hear the sound of a wolf. He knows the voice of coyote well, and here they are ever-present. But wolf is a different creature. He knows coyote will try to take the shape and voice of wolf. But an elder such as he can tell the difference. Wolf is his totem, and each day the man knows he grows closer to death. He wants to speak with wolf one last time, out here, among the sage and jackrabbits. He wants to sit with wolf and stare at the thickening moon and leave the wolf his story to impart to another generation.

CACOPHONY OF SILENCE

There is one thing a poet hates
more than a page
that refuses to be filled –
it is coming across words
that profess
or are sworn
to silence.
I had a pen
I truly loved
until it announced
early one morning
it was taking
a vow
of iambic celibacy.
Poems once pregnant
with possibility
grew cloistered
and habitual.
As I turned
from Erato’s altar
she called after me,
“Your pen
is out of ink.”

WAITING GAME

He is due to arrive
as soon as we are ready.
We have known for some time
that he is on his way,
and we want everything just so
for him when he arrives.
That is the least we can do,
and the least he would expect.
We are not certain
just what he will want
so we can never be certain
we are actually ready.
That, we think, explains
why he has not arrived.
Unless he has, since we
have never seen him,
and don’t know if he
might actually be a she.
So we say our prayers
and go on with preparations.

AN OFF YEAR

The was a winter, once
where even in the north
the snow refused to fall
and ice rejected jamming the culverts,
the sky stared down in amazement.
That was the year trees would not bud
and flowers fled deeper
into the sweetness of the earth,
grass singed and lay indolent.
It was a year my coat of many colors
was taken, pieced out among brothers
until each had a color and none a coat.
I would sit at the right hand of kings
dreaming of a day when dreams
might refuse to visit and then,
starved of images
I could reinforce foundations
preparing for their visit.
I am strapped to the altar
and the knife is poised in the hand
of a man who would like to be a father,
both of us looking up for intervention.
There was a year, once
when the ram broke free
of the thicket and picked his way
down the hill to his young.


First Appeared in Arnazella, 2001. Reprinted on Website of Poets
Against the War, 2003. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29,
No.1, 2005.