PECULIAR?

I grant you cats can be peculiar
but they have one significant
advantage over all other pets,
except maybe hamsters
and gerbils, for when you
need someone to talk to,
to unload your problems on,
to try and wrestle with
a thorny issue of public policy
or geopolitical intrigue
and that night has swallowed
everyone you know, anyone
you might dare disturb
in the hours after midnight,
you may rest assured that
a dog would be sleeping
somewhere and will not be
roused for heaven and earth,
but a cat will be wide awake,
willing to let you go on and on
in exchange for a bit of play,
but there is the risk that she
or he will disagree with you
using a claw for emphasis.

THE GRADUATE

You really ought to pause
and wonder just how different
the world might be today
if in that crucial moment
things had gone in
a wholly different direction.

A single moment can
set the course for all
of the moments that follow,
a definite future plucked
from an infinite array
of possibilities.

I mean, of course,
that moment when
Mr. McGuire, in the guise
of Walter Brooke turns
to Benjamin Braddock,
for what if he had said
“I want to say just one
word to you: Ecology”
and when asked what
he meant, he would add
“There’s a great future
in ecology. Think about it.”

THIS LAND (IS) WAS MY LAND

I would very much like
to look down from above,
unseen by those below,
in my country, see the turmoil
roiling so many, the lines
formed at borders, a queue
for those deemed less valuable,
and I wonder where in the line
my ancestors would be
were they still alive.
I wonder what life
would be like if I
was born in Lithuania
or if my parents never met.
I wonder, too, what life
would be like if we still
honored the principles
our ancestors came here to find.

First Published in Culture & Identity, Vol. 2, The Poet (2022)

AFGHAN, ANYONE

Symbols have deep meaning
even to those so blind they
cannot see them, and our politics
have become wholly retail.

Any good retailer will tell you
that $19.95 is significantly
less than $20.00, a nickel
that swallows the dollars.

So we got out, and nineteen
years and 354 days
is considerably shorter
than twenty years we are told,

but everything blew up around us,
but I’m sure the politicians will note
that a dozen dead, while tragic
is far less than a baker’s dozen.

ENDGAME

He knew it was time
to call it a career when
they handed him the list
of what he could not say,
what terms were verbotten,
what topics were off limits.

Once upon a time he watched
the fight over textbooks,
how they approached sensitive
subjects like race, war, equality,
but he could teach around
whatever strictures they
would ignorantly impose.

But now whole topics,
entire aspects of history
were off limits, and he knew
he would not be an educator
but merely an indoctrinator and he
wanted no part of that.

ARISING

It is far too early to think about that,
although many would say
it is already far too late.

That is the conundrum
in which we find ourselves,
defining our options, drawing
political lines that are
not dare crossed unless you
accept there can be no return.

And those who say it’s
too early, it can wait, must hope
that they can emulate
the Phoenix when they
have turned this world to ash.

GREAT DANGER

There are those who say
that we are engaged
in a culture war, and that
may be an apt description,
even as it misses its mark.

It is hardly cultures that
are at war, but those who
take shelter under their
false mantle, armored
in labels, shielded by cliches.

But the weapons of the war
are quite real, known
for ages, Stalin and Alexie
calling them out by turns,
for they pose the danger.

In this war it is ideas
that are wielded ruthlessly,
ideas to be most feared
if they are not shared,
ideas that must be suppressed.

LANDING

She sends us a map

showing on which tribe’s land

we are now living.

This is not something

we have thought about,

not something we want

to think about, for that

would demand that we

are the usurpers, the horde

whose pogrom was

ultimately successful,

and that is a face that

refuse to see in the

polished mirror of history.

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 

VISITORS

We keep looking, some of us
certain they are there,
others as certain they are not,
as God didn’t mention them.

We hope to see them
to reach out to them
to understand them,
to learn from them.

Of course, we know
that if they are here
they are so much more
intelligent than we

and hardly likely
to announce their
presence given what
they must know about

how we behave
with immigrants
and aliens of all sorts.