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.
As a child I played Battleship
on a square grid, the ships marked
by hand, one for each of the players,
we were efficient by necessity.
My sons played Battleship, though
under a different name in deference
to my hatred of things martial,
on an electrically wired board.
My grandchildren haven’t yet
discovered the game, now played
on their iPads and iPhones, but it
is no doubt just a matter of time.
In Washington our president
plays the game with real ships
against China and Iran but it
is clear he doesn’t understand
how the game is played, and what
happens when you lose a ship,
but the sailors in the Navy know
all too well and dread the outcome
given his history in playing
against opponents who clearly
understand not only the rules
but also tactics and strategy.
It was the moment they said, we picked you, that I knew they had not. They thought they had to say it. They knew they shouldn’t. I was the next gumball down the chute. You put in your nickel, move the lever and wait. Actually it wasn’t quite like that. If you don’t like the color or flavor of gumball, you throw it out or give it to someone else. Spend another nickel, simple. In adoption, there was no do over. In my case as well. Well there was, actually, but if you give one back, you don’t get another unless there was a really big and hidden problem. Read the fine print, the lawyers say, adoptees come with no warranty, and you take us as is. You wouldn’t buy a car that way, would you.
I have been repeatedly told
by many that in this hyper-
electronic age, the best way, if
nit the only way, for the little guy
to buy and sell is online.
I’m not one to argue so
I decided to try it, and quickly
learned that Amazon had
cornered the market on sales
so Craigslist was my best hope.
I also learned that those willing
to pay anything near what an item
was worth didn’t bother with
Craigslist, but I didn’t care so I
listed under curb alerts, free
to anyone who wanted it, and
I stood by the curb for hours,
watched cars pull up slowly,
then drive quickly away, and
my heart is still unclaimed, searching.
It was a most unusual night
in the city, and a surprising number
of its residents took note of that
which in itself was unusual.
By 2:00 A.M., those awake and
those who had awakened
strained to hear it, but there
was nothing at all, no sounds
to which they had become
so accustomed, and some imagined
they had been transported
from the city to its suburbs.
The EMTs grew nervous,
the trauma center staff laughed
nervously at the lack of gunshots
and the shock of the silence.
One deep and abiding beauty of dreams
is that it is entirely logical for
Marina Tsvetaeva to be engaged
In an animated discussion with
Corso and Ginsberg where none will
acknowledge that the world they
wrote and imagined is a total mess.
Over in the corner, Mandelstam and
Reznikoff have agreed that for eternity
every game of chess they play will
result in a stalemate, if only
to drive Brodsky to distraction, that
and having Osip say he prefers
Reznikoff’s free verse translations
to Brodsky’s ponderous rhymes.
I am looking forward to a cup
of espresso with Sylvia Plath, but she
says here she only drinks single malt
Scotch until it’s at least 5 P.M.
Bob Dylan is, to the best of my knowledge,
the only songwriter to successfully rhyme
outrageous and contagious, which doesn’t
explain why I knew I could never be
a successful songwriter in this life.
The explanation is far simpler, it was when
Leonard Cohen served me tea and apricots,
said he hated the river even living in Montreal
and said I should pack off to Florida or
California if I wanted oranges, though he
said, if I ever visited China, if I’d see
where their oranges came from.
We’re all older now, Leonard is dead
and even Bob admits he’s not sure
he’s younger now, but he says, Bob that is,
that I need to get over keeping up
with the Joneses, because in the final
analysis, we are all Jones at the end.
When I was a child, my mother
repeatedly told me that I must
learn something new each day.
I knew better than to point out
that it was absurd to call
for novel behavior by repetition.
So I took the path of least resistance
and each day grabbed a random
volume of the World Book Encyclopedia,
opened to any page and read
the first entry on that page, committing
it, or its salient facts, to memory.
There is so much in life with which
I still struggle, seemingly basic tasks
I never took the time to master,
too busy with my head in books,
but I do know that the acts of Punisa
Racic that June, 1928 day killing two
led King Alexander, six months later,
to ban all political parties, assume power
and rename the country Yugoslavia.
My friends have often wondered aloud
why I claim to be most creative when
I am stuck on an airplane for hours.
I have told them that the solitude,
the lack of It is an interesting quirk
of the internet, that birth
and death are disconnected.
Seeking out those born today
I found a long list, the dinosaur
among which is Judy Collins.
That I still remember seeing her
reminds me at once a sense of my youth
and my ever progressing age.
But seek out those who died
on this day, and you hear the strains
of the Slavonic Dance in E minor
or the Sabre Dance from Gayane
but Popes Pius V and Marcellus II
suggest neither of them matter,
Heathens both, they claim, which
brings a deep laugh from Cleaver
and Livingstone, both of who
deny the other, and each says
that only he truly found the black
panther, and I’m thankful to be alive.to distract me,
which includes any airline approved movie,
that allows my creative self to emerge, to
express itself fully without reservation,
a status that being earthbound denies.
Many laugh, uncertain of how creativity
expresses itself, but certain, they
assure me, that my efforts have not
gone unnoticed, that my time spent,
but most importantly my results so well
reflect the surroundings of their creation.
The kid is late again today, but that
is sadly not unusual, the old man said.
I ought to get rid of him, but I know
he needs the job to feed his family.
In the meanwhile, I’ll now have
to hobble down to the meadow
and hope my collie, who’s as old as I,
is up to the job of herding sheep still.
And I know that he will only shrug
when I threaten to dock his pay
for the loss, hell, even just the profit
I lost on the corn the cows consumed.
I get that he’s tired, those late night
gigs at club in town, and I hear that
he’s thinking of joining a trio in Chicago,
though I have no idea how they ever
heard his playing out here in fly-over-ville,
but I guess I’d better let him get his rest,
for if he becomes a star, maybe he’ll
remember me in his first CD’s liner notes.