JEALOUSY (AGAIN)

We are jealous of trees,
anchored as we are
to a grasping earth,
able to tear free only
momentarily or with
the help of machines,

for trees can approach
the clouds, swaddle
all manner of birds,
and, we are certain,
know heaven more
intimately than we can.

And trees are jealous
of birds, able to fly
well above their highest
branches, knowing
the true blue of the sky
and the verdant base
from which they took flight.

Just for the fun of it I asked ChatGPT to write a poem on this topic. Here is its effort:

In envy we gaze upon the sky, Watching birds soar with such grace and ease, Their wings taking them to places high, Leaving us on the ground to freeze.

We long to join them in their flight, To feel the wind beneath our wings, To escape the troubles of our plight, And spread our arms to feel the fling.

But alas, we are not meant to fly, Our feet firmly planted on the earth, While birds glide through the clouds on high, Showing us the true meaning of worth.

We may be jealous of their freedom, But let us not forget our own, For we have the ability to dream, And make our own paths to be shown.

So let us not dwell on jealousy, For we too have our own unique gifts, Let us embrace our humanity, And find joy in the life we’re given

MID MORNING SONG

He leans against the wall
outside the Prêt à Manger
witting with his dog
on the old Mexican blankets
that look uniquely out of place
on a cool London morning.
He sips the now fetid coffee
in its Styrofoam cup,
its Burger King logo
and temperature warning.
His hair is long, mostly
gray with streaks of white,
his beard white
with swaths of blond, he
looks as though he
just stepped down the plank
of the great sailing ship,
returned from a voyage
save for his tattered, stained
Manchester United sweatpants.
I put 50p in his metal box
against my better judgment
and stroke behind the ears
of the placid dog.
“May you be many times praised”
he sputters, through teeth
stained tobacco brown,
“for with more like you,
Rufus here, and I shall later
enjoy a fine repast.
May Saint Dymphna be praised.”
In the taxi to Paddington Station
I wonder who my patron
might be, if Jews
only had Saints.

First published in Sideways Poetry Magazine, Issue Two
https://sidewayspoetry.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/london-issue-2-1.pdf

MACHISMO

He was fond of saying
that men need to toughen up,
show more fortitude, take
time for serious male bonding.

He would prattle on about
how so many men were
not true men anymore,
warped by modern society.

I tried my best to avoid him,
to quickly end our encounters and
when I could not, for he would
inevitably complain of loneliness.

Still, I would much rather be
in the kitchen, knives in hand
preparing a fine meal beside
the woman I so deeply love.

EN ROUTE

We spend so much of our lives
imagining we are en route,
always on the way to somewhere
if often not certain where that
somewhere might be.

It seems we intensely dislike
not being in motion, not focused
on the future, the destination,
never wanting to be, seeming
to dread being static.

Yet the irony is that we,
at any given moment, are
never en route anywhere
for we are, in each moment
if we are in that moment,
exactly where we are,
en route to nowhere.

WANTING

I wanted to write like Heaney
but of course he got there first
and could do it in two languages,
so that was out of the question.

I tried to write like other
of the greats only to find that
what set them apart from so many
set them rather far apart from me.

So I an left to write as myself,
which I find a bit boring for I
know myself all too well, and anything
I say or write I’ve heard before.

But I suppose you have not
heard it before so unless you are
the one who sneaks into my dreams
before I can capture them,

in which case would you return
the best of them, for in them
I know lies whatever better poems
I have yet to cast to paper.

BENT ARROW

He would never understand how time developed a flexibility that defied the laws of physics. An hour, a minute, a second, they were all standard measures. Each the same as every other. Yet lately they had changed, flexed. For the most part they had gotten shorter, shrunken. He knew that wasn’t possible until he remembered Einstein’s famous quote.* But perhaps that Einsteinian law applied only to those of a certain growing age, like his.

*Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.

SOONER OR LATER

He is cornered and knows it
so he responds as honestly
as he knows how without
turning away his questioner.

“You have a basic choice, “
he says, “most likely,
and that is do you want it
to look like this now,

or do you want it to look
like this in say thirty years.
If you want it looking like
this in thirty years, this

is what I would give you now,
and if all you care about
is now, it will possibly look
like this thirty years out.”

He’d been asked the question
before, given the same
answer and he knew
the odds were good that

he’d never see this person
again. That, sadly was the price
of integrity when you are
a highly skilled tattoo artist.

GREAT DIVIDE

The truck, a white Ford F-150
with oversized tires was parked
on the lawn next to the small
parking lot, filling quickly as people
arrived for the community market.

There was a giant flag fixed
to the bed of the truck, unavoidable
flapping in the breeze,
“Let’s Go Brandon,” and everyone
knew the message all too well.

Some averted their eyes, a few
smiled, and as many gave
the well known one finger salute,
aware that they ought not hate
the hater, but unable not do do so.

Colors, blue, red, purple cease
to matter in the face of such a blatant,
almost rabid effort that can only
widen the rift that is slowly tearing
our civilized society apart.

ASKING

Asking saints to intercede
is something quite new to me,
having never considered that saints
were people whom I might seek out.

I’ve started carefully, only
seeking saints who hang
on my family tree, Margaret,
Itta, Begga, Adela, Arnulf,

and I’ve vowed to ask nothing
for myself, for karma will
see to me one way or another,
so I ask only for those in need.

I don’t know if the saints
will respond, or how I would
know if they did, but my wife says
that prayer never hurts,

and I cannot argue with that.