It’s jazz, it’s a club,
but there what once was
is no more, there are
no ashtrays on the table,
overflowing early into
the second set, no cloud
of cigarette smoke descending
from the too dark ceiling.
There is no recognizable odor
of a freshly lit Gaulloise,
in the trembling fingers of
a young man trying to look cool,
trying not to cough on each
inhalation, in the calm fingers
of a young woman who
you know speaks the fluent
French of her homeland.
It is none of those things
but it is jazz, it is a club
and in this city, now, it must suffice.
The pelican hasn’t been around
for a couple of days, and we miss
his akimbo dives into the pond,
surfacing and throwing his head back
to show he’s swallowing his catch
even though we suspect some of the time
he caught nothing at all, but knowing
we’re as gullible an audience
as he is likely to find any time soon.
We hope he is off breeding somewhere,
making little pelicans that will
be able to entertain us next fall
when we return, birds of our own sort,
not snowy egrets but snow birds nonetheless.
We don’t want to know any more
about the mating ritual, some
things ought to be private.
We learned that painful a few years
ago, when my brother thought it
was important we see thoroughbreds bred.
We prefer our breedings like
good French films, suggestive
but ultimately leaving it
to our memory, like so much of our youth.
It is said that you can never go home again
presuming, of course, that you have left at some point.
The fallacy of this statement is apparent,
for there is often nothing preventing your return.
What would make the statement accurate
is that you can never go home again
to exactly the same home you left
for your leaving alters the place and your return
creates only a new status quo, it can’t restore the old one.
It is like this with rivers, the Buddhist knows,
you never step into the same river twice
for each steps has you greeting new water
and even the rock upon which you step
has microscopically eroded.
So feel free to go home again, for there is
much to be gained from returning to a place
that is so familiar, and yet which you have
never before actually visited.
The dream came to him again last night. He could never be certain if it was on the barren high mesa outside Taos or in the endless sands of Morocco. It really didn’t matter, since the action of the dream took place in a restaurant, and its location was ambiance, although he suspected it did have some deeper psychological meaning. In the dream he was grating cheese, when he awoke, nervous. Try though he knew he wouldn’t slip back into sleep until he determined if he was grating Roquefort or Gorgonzola, and he knew the cows would be soon enough calling him to the barn for the morning milking.
Consider them very carefully
for you will have only this chance
and you don’t want to add
those which ought not be included
or be forever burdened by those
you overlooked or misassumed
you wanted to retain.
When you are quite certain
you are finished, that your list
is exactly as you wish it,
that all your dislikes and regrets
are properly delineated, then
walk slowly to the river,
pen at the ready, and write them
with a precise hand upon the water.
It is difficult explaining to a child,
even one who has reached the age of 40,
that you once knew all there was to know.
They are certain they know more than you,
and they know all there is to know
so, a fortiori, you could not know
all that there is to know, period.
They will say this with a certain smugness
born, they believe, of the knowledge
that they know quite everything.
But there is still a perverse pleasure
in watching their smugness collapse
like a house of cards in a storm,
when you remind them that there was
so much less to know when you
knew everything, and so it will be
for their children when the reckoning comes.
Each morning I drag myself
from bed, slowly engage my legs,
and amble into the bathroom
where I peer into the mirror.
Each morning I am surprised
that I am the same as I was
they day before, and yet the mirror
by all appearances,
has grown another day older.
It is, I suppose, the nature
of mirrors to age, sadly for them,
and as I turn away each morning
I wish the mirror a good day,
certain that it cannot help
but mourn its ever increasing age.
It’s difficult enough, Mom, that I
never got to meet you, to see your face
save in a college yearbook, to have
only a few relatives acknowledge
my existence despite the DNA test
that clearly links us, one to the other.
What makes it more difficult is
trying to figure out my heritage,
my geographic roots before our family
arrived in West Virginia, back
in the old country which for most
was Lithuania, but for some Poland
and still others Russia, as though
their village was loaded onto a horsecart
and dragged around Eastern Europe
always heading to the next pogrom.
Couldn’t our place have settled
on a country, rather than riding the tides
of the insanity the leaders then?
It washed up on the beach this morning,
stopped right at my feet, as I
stared down at it, examining it carefully.
It message was clear at first, a tale
too hard to swallow, of creatures
tossed about by a storm that no one
saw, from an age in which no one
now alive could have experienced.
The message described a magic land
of which it gave only had a brief glimpse,
a land that was constantly in flux
and perpetually out of reach.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine
such a marvelous place, and as I did
it receded back into the ocean
from which it emerged, merged
with all of the others, and I
was left with only this dream of it.
He divided time into neat,
well organized segments, each
precisely the equivalent of each other,
some the perfect sum of lessers.
This is how it should be and must be
he thought, and it made things
so much easier for him.
He knew when to arrive, and
always knew precisely what
time it was and would be.
He couldn’t understand why
others couldn’t seem to arrive
on his schedule, never mind
that they had divided time
into neat segments, each
precisely the equivalent of each other
and none the equivalent of
his tidy temporal order.