DEFINE-ITELY

It takes only moments for someone
to ask for a definition of poetry.

That task is at once terribly
simple and equally impossible,

a poem is many things
but not now or ever:

a paean to a self-aggrandizing
leader without soul
or sense of direction,
moral and literal;

a rant on how
all are conspiring
against you despite
your stable genius;

a Jeremiad decrying
facts contrary
to what you wish
them to be;

any attempt you
make or condone
to rewrite
“The New Colossus.”

BANDAGE

She wants to know if it is even possible
to make a bandage large enough
to bind the wounds we have inflicted
on a planet which we were told
was ours over which we were
to exercise our wise dominion.

She says it isn’t fair that she will be
left to try to clean up the mess
that we have made for it was our
world too, though she adds, we were
not very good at sharing with others.

I want to apologize and tell her
that she is right, that we adults
have failed her generation but
I know she won’t believe me, for
we could have stopped this, but we

always looked out for ourselves
always wanted just a bit more
always were too busy to notice
assumed the others would handle it
said there was nothing we could do.

We hope one day you will
forgive us although we have done
nothing to merit any absolution.

First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020

JE SAIS QUOI

I admit I am an odd duck, odder for not being a duck at all. But the expression has a certain je ne sais quoi to it, as does that expression and I am all about language. All that is a long round about way of acknowledging that I have always wanted to use the word antiphonal in my writing. I’m not terribly religious, and what faith I had has long been shaken by a world gone mad. Or at least a country gone mad. And even when I had some faith, I subscribed to the syllogism that religions music was to music, as military food was to food. We won’t even mention military music, that is an abject oxymoron.

SHELVED

They speak of me, never to me,
with terms like breakage, as though
life, mine at least, is a glass bottle
on a shelf with so many others,
and a certain percentage are pre-
assumed to break and be discarded
and no one will bat an eyelash.

To them I am nameless, one of many,
stock in trade, with no provenance,
or at least none they would grant me,
and they question my origins, as though
I may not be worthy enough to even
be considered as future breakage.

I want to remind them that they
invited me here, invited so many others,
that we are here because it was one
place we were going to be allowed,
but they have grown deaf, and blind,
and I must wait until they, too, soon,
are swept from the shelf and
placed in clearance, then discarded.

RETURN OF SCIENCE

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.

A CITY LIKE ALMOST ANY OTHER

somewhere within three blocks
of here a limo is disgorging
or swallowing up passengers

a child is dreaming of taking
lessons on a piano or violin
of Carnegie or Alice Tully Halls

a woman is remembering
what the touch of his fingers
felt on her cheek, tracing

her jaw, not shattering it,
a tagger prepares for battle
carefully loading his makeshift

holster after clearing
each nozzle, plotting which walls
will be an evening’s canvas

but across from here there is
the same red brick building
five store fronts, each with

barred doors drawn tight
staring, with no hope of parole
a green grocer, two bananas

rotting on the stoop,
a tailor’s naked mannequin
head turned backwards in shame

a locksmith whose lock
dwarfs the others though
there is nothing within to hide

and two vacant hollow spaces
like eyes of the dead
rheumy, semi-opaque voids

and eight neat rows
of six sooty windows each
behind which others hide

from the anger and fury
they would unleash on the city
if they could overcome their fear.

Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
https://theravensperch.com/a-city-like-almost-any-other-by-louis-faber/

CITIZEN OF . . .

There was a time that now
seems so very long ago, when I
would freely admit, sometimes claim
to be American, if not acknowledging
my time in the Air Force as well.

Those days are gone, as is the place
I knew, now morphed into somewhere
much the same, and entirely unrecognizable,
and I am American by proximity, knowing
my welcome has been worn out for me elsewhere.

It need not, ought not, have been this way,
political seas have long ebbed and flowed,
but I, we, knew we could remain afloat
on our constitutional raft, built to ride out
whatever storms might blow our way.

We know, or have an abiding hope that this,
that he and his band of marauders, will pass
into history, a dark cloud finally pushed aside,
but despite the shortness of his tenure,
I can only nervously wonder what will remain.

TESTAMENT

Christ and his disciples
walk slowly through the lobby
en route to the bar, discussing
the evil of war and blind obedience.
They push three tables together
and slowly drain the pitchers
of Bud draft, laughing
over the sound of the Karaoke.
As the evening draws itself
into night, he boasts
in Aramaic that he
has translated more than half
of the Bhagavat Gita,
although he much prefers
the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Satan, he suspects aloud,
is still trying fruitlessly
to finish Spinoza’s Ethics,
but without improved understanding
the old devil is doomed to failure.
As the night draws on, the hooker
hovers ever closer, and for a moment
he wonders if she would moan
as she feigned orgasm.
He lights another Camel
and crumples the empty pack
and throws it, knowing it will miss
the can and roll on the floor
under the bar rail, and he curses
in the ancient tongue.

First Appeared in Maelstrom, Issue 2, 2000

ROBO

The phone is again ringing,
and the odds say it is someone
who wants to extend my warranty
on the car I no longer own,

or to lower my credit card interest
though I never carry a balance,
or to help me fix my computer if I
just hand over control to them.

I won’t answer this time, almost
never do unless I know the caller
and want to speak to them,
robocalls, despised as they are

do provide a convenient excuse
not to speak to the long lost friend
who only needs a short term loan,
or the charity always wanting more.

Many want the government to act,
to ban or limit these calls, and I
agree, but be prepared to answer
when I call about the money you promised.