ENSLAVED

We were six hours out of Tokyo
somewhere over the North Pacific.
My back was cramped, calf muscles
knotted, longing for sleep
that would not come, the movie
rolling out in sullen silence.
I wait for the night to pass, for light
to break in through the cracks
around the pulled shades
some small reminder that day
and freedom await, but the sun
remains outside, knowing its place.
We wandered the desert for 40 years
but there we had freedom of movement,
endless space in the parching sun.
Sitting on the plane, quietly begging
for a landing and the crush of bodies
moving through the airport, you long
to see her pull off the shirt and jeans,
to see her standing, stretching in the pink
panties, to mix lust and love and sweat,
to hold her in the frantic dance of orgasm,
but none of that is possible from seat 34-C
United Flight 882 en route to Chicago.
We stood in the cattle cars, pressed
so tightly that movement occurred
only in waves, surprised that they
would treat laborers in such a fashion,
but dreading the alternative, it offered
constant provision of your papers
to the smug young men who knew so little
of the world, save for the gray wool
of the uniforms, the twin lightning bolts
screwed into their lapels, their cruelty
not only expected but ordered.
When we saw the smoke rising from the ovens
we knew, but preferred to deny the truth
as surely as the cordwood knows that it
is destined for the fire, soon to be ashes.
She is likely waking now, stepping from the shower
her skin lightly red from the back scrubber
and the towel rubbed across her thighs.
We stood on the deck of the old freighter,
many of us pressed tightly against the rail
and saw the old seaport baking in the sun,
a land we were certain was promised us
but they turned us back though several drowned
swimming for her shores, death preferable
to return to a place of nothingness, a void.
Six hours out of Tokyo, teeming with people
like the lower East Side on Shabbat morning,
you want to see open spaces, to find some sort
of freedom and our slavery is barely
a bitter memory, saved for prayer.

First Appeared in Footwork: Paterson Literary Review, Vol. 24-25, 1998.

IN SEARCH OF

The cat stares down from her new perch atop the living room bookcase. She watches us move about, wondering where she might be. She can tell we are getting increasingly frantic in our search as she is new here, and we are adapting to each other still. We look behind everywhere she might hide, but she is gone. She can tell we are getting ever more nervous. She lets out a whistle, drawing our attention, and seeing us see her, she nods, saying Here I am, foolish ones.

TAILORING

My adoptive
grandfather 
could take bits
of cloth, 
a needle, thread
and with magicly
gnarled fingers
create a garment
fit for royalty, 
to be worn
by the old woman
living 
in the walkup 
down the street.

I take words
bits of ideas
and hope,
and with 
manicured fingers
create what
I can only hope
passes for poetry
to be ignored
by those
living nearby
in my suburb.

DIALOGUE

S:         What are you doing, for heaven sake?
H:        Isn’t it obvious, I’m searching
for Nirvana, for enlightenment.
S:         You silly fool, it’s right behind you!
H:        (turning suddenly) It is not,
I would certainly see it.
S:         You might think so, but
it is still right behind you!

H:        But why, tell me, can’t I see it?
S:         Because you’re looking for it
always peering outward,
but if you look inward
behind your eyes, you
won’t be able to miss it.

A HASTY BURIAL

They should have had
an altar, even Abraham
had one when he was ready
to execute Isaac, and the ram
interceded, to his ultimate peril.

They should have had
a funeral, that is just common
sense and decency, but they
wanted no such thing, just
be done with it, bury it away.

I still mourn the death
of science for I know that it
operates without spite, without
anger, with simplicity, making
our world ever more livable.

Perhaps there will be
a resurrection, it has happened
before, although at times
it does seem that it would
take a rather large miracle now.

First published in Pages Penned in Pandemic, 2021 

HISTORY

It was easier
having no history
of my own, borrowed
histories are easily discarded.

After a while, you
begin to think of the adopted
history as your own,
and no one doubts you.

I have a history now
countries woven into 
my DNA, always present
but never before seen.

It is mine, I passed it
along to my sons, and
although it grows weaker
it is a burden they cannot avoid

and one day, perhaps,
they will stop and consider
from where they came, and not
have to invent the answer.

EXISTENCE

I imagine I am the creator
I imagine I am the created
and I am the creator
and I am the created
I am both, I am neither.

I exist because I think I exist
so I have created myself,
just as you exist to me  because
I think you exist, I am creator.

I say I can touch you so you
must exist, but I touch with my mind
so I cannot prove your existence
only the thought of your existence.

When I die, I will no longer exist,
and you will no longer exist
as far as my you is concerned
and that is the only you I can know.

INVASION

The light has faded
and the wetland lies under
its mantle of faint starlight.

The birds are there, we
can hear them, but our eyes
do not allow us to see them,
despite our desire to have
more time with them.

They can see us, in our 
well lit homes, staring out,
but they do not want 
particularly to see us.

To us they are a fascination,
to them we are an invader
and the victim does not care
to see his conqueror, but
the invader always wants
to see his victims yet again.