HOLY ERROR

If you truly believe that God created
every creature individually, it is all
His intelligent design, then why the apple
in the Garden, and why both crocs
and alligators, wouldn’t one have
been sufficient, and why, just why
have mosquitoes at all, ever?

I won’t bother asking why God gave
us free will, since you say He will
punish us if we use it other than
as He directed, and you know the
directons better than anyone.

For that matter, why termites
and fire ants, alternative purposes
seem wholly lacking, and above all,
and beyond all logic and even
beyond omniscience, what in the name
of God was He thinking when
He created the politician?

DROWNING

Stop and breathe, deeply,
don’t look at the smog,
at the particles hanging
in your air like a curtain.

Don’t pause to consider
what you are inhaling, don’t
picture your alveoli clogged
with what you can now see.

You are drowning slowly in
a sea of air, so imagine yourself
a fish struggling in the water
of a sea you have laid waste to.

SUNDAY MORNING

Every Sunday morning my parents,
usually my father at mother’s direction
would drive me the four blocks
to attend Sunday school.

I could easily have walked, a long
block and a half by cutting through yards,
but they were afraid of I have
absolutely no idea what.

My friends that weren’t there with me
were probably in church so
it wasn’t like I had anywhere else
I might go, anything else I could do.

I never asked why my parents were
so insistant I attend the school, they
knew I’d be Bar Mitzvahed with or
without the Sunday mornings,

and they were Jews only in the loosest
secular sense, and I was in those
awkward years and the only thing
else that came to mind, fed by

my father’s not so well hidden stash
of Playboy’s was too grim to imagine
and given how little they liked to be
around one another, could be rejected.

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

MARVEL

We are, after all, merely human
so we are fraught with questions
and lacking answers, willing
to take things on faith on occasion.

Take God, for example, although
some say He is uniquely exemplary,
we want to know if God is a he,
a she, or to cover all our bases, a they.

And when we ask for a sign we
often look to the heavens as if
God only operate locally, even
Moses knew a bush would suffice.

Actually we hunger for signs now,
in a world gone mad, cursing free
will, wanting proof, when all we
need do is marvel at nature around us.

ALL THAT JAZZ

The magic of jazz
is not what you think,
there is nothing random
even in the wildest, in
the acidest of solos.

Cacophony is randomness
and the key to jazz
is to see the
invisible logic,
read the mind,
be the mind
of the musician.

It is zen, but only
if you stop searching
and just be in its
moment.

UMMON’S TWO SICKNESSES

As you wander
your path, what is it
that you search for?

When you seek
instruction from a master
what is it you expect
him to provide you?

When you sit
still on the cushion
you may find a moment
of kensho, but
labeling that moment
destroys it.

Enlightenment cannot
be described
for attaching words
brings it to the ground
as rubble around
your feet.

A reflection on Case 11 of the Book of Equanimity (SHôYôROKU 従容錄)

CELESTIAL RHYTHM

It was a certain rhythm that he loved,
one he felt it in total silence, yet it faded
in the presence of sound, a doumbek
of the soul he would describe it.

He remembered how it was before
their one god rendered him and his kind
mere mythological creatures fit only
for poetry and dusty library shelves.

He would have his revenge some day,
would condemn their God to a corner
of the heavens, an eternity to reconsider
the rashness of his narcissism, but

in the meanwhile he would continue
to rest in the heart of this constellation
hoping to go unnoticed, happy just
to listen to the rhythm of the universe.

A WELL REHEARSED SILENCE

Of course there is something I ought
to say, moments like this require it,
it goes without saying, painfully.

I practiced lines for hours, rehearsed
in my dreams for weeks, knew
for years I’d be rendered mute.

My tongue swells, threatening
to escape my mouth or take refuge
deep within my esophagus.

Your silence is only compounding
my anxiety, how can I, a man
of words, be rendered silent

by the thought of speaking to you,
of telling you that I finally now
joyously have what I feared I wouldn’t ever.

A wife and lover deserves
better than this.

ON ARRIVING

They arrive after a long flight
from tyranny, from oppression
from the nightmare of endless
fear, from hunger, from faith
denied, from the bottomless
depths of poverty, scarred
memories etched in their souls,
hoping for an ending as much
as wishing for a new beginning.
They have been here, a new
generation, raised on the stories,
versed in the painful history,
still residual anger born
of love for those who fled,
without the pain of experience,
who can forget when it is
others who now wish only
to arrive to the freedom they
have known since childhood

First appeared in Circumference, Issue 5, June 2022
https://poetryatpi.wordpress.com/