HELL’S PRISONER

I am pressed into a seat
that would conform only
to the body of some alien creature,
or so it seems, for hours
into a flight that increasingly
seems eternal, particularly for the baby
two rows back, who, like me
would much rather be anywhere else.
The crew dims the cabin lights
the universal indicator of “Don’t
think of bothering us, we fed you
and will give you a snack in the morning,
only if you behave, so
off to sleep with you all.”
As my back and neck rebel, I
remind myself it could be far worse,
the food poisoned, perhaps, not
merely inedible, for this, despite
appearances, is only the second ring of hell.

DO NOT FORWARD

I thought about sending you a postcard,
one with the Riviera in the background
or from Vieux Nice, with its teeming life,
after all, we did have 30 years together.
We never came here, I haven’t been back
to the places we went together since they,
like so much of what we shared, I left to you.
I figured you needed that more than I did,
that you said you felt nothing for me anymore
I still felt much, good, bad, but never
indifferent, so you got it all, though to you,
I suspect, even the good turned sour with time.
I couldn’t think of what to write on the postcard
so to save us both time, and you
the effort, I simply put a stamp on it
and threw it in the trash container along the beach.

STEPPING IN IT

Over the next few weeks I shall
step into more churches than is safe
for a formerly Jewish Buddhist, but
in Europe it seems no tour is complete
without one or more churches, at least
one of which will be the most
beautiful cathedral in all of [choose
any country you wish and inserted here.]
I will take off my hat, for that is easier
than the opprobrium of the faithful,
I will stare at the beauty of the stained-glass,
try, in some cases, to ignore its message,
and hope, beyond all logic, that this group
will stop at a synagogue were all
of the men and women, save me
will have to put on kippot or head scarves
and most will vow it will be their last visit
do such a heathen place, at least until
they get to Antwerp or Amsterdam.

ALTERNATIVES

I would much rather
be home, listening to Joan Osborne
on the CD player,
lying on the couch
with you sleeping across the sofa
curled under the cotton throw
coiled against the winter
battering the windows
ca tucked into your knees.

Instead, I sit on the bed
CNN droning in the background
and stare out at the Hoyt Cinemas
the marquee blank but blazing
over the barren street
with the occasional car
sliding by in oblivion.

In Paris the air traffic controllers
have joined the strike
much to the mirth
of the citizens of London
but I will have
to postpone my trip
or perhaps just spend
a couple of days
wandering the Cotswolds
roaming among time worn
tombstones nestled
in the shadows of ancient churches.

In six hours I will run
along the bay, under
the watchful eye of early diners
in the Marriott coffee shop
and the lone egret
standing at water’s edge
watching the giant bird
with unmoving wings
reach out for the sun.


First Appeared in The Distillery: Artistic Spirits of the South, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1997.

THE VILLAGES

You are driving through the Florida
that once was, that is off the coast,
and out of Orlando, the Florida
of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations
and the more than occasional double wide.
Suddenly, you are in a Disney version
of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages
where cars have been supplanted by an endless
stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile
is a permanent fixture of most every face.
In the community, as you walk into
the town center, a town square imagined
by Rodeo Drive, each night at five
a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic
lawn chairs laid out in neat array
soon to fill with those who so well remember
when the songs to be played, and they, were young.

FALLS

The water pours endlessly, relentlessly
over the lip, cascading into the gorge
the mist rising, engulfing the rim of the falls,
swallowing whole the small island,
that will be eaten by the river over the next centuries.
We sit in the comfort of our room, watching
as if this was a movie, the water
in a slow-motion counterpoint to the mist.
None of the tour boats circle the gorge,
for in Niagara, even the goddess of tourism
must begrudgingly give herself over to winter.