RIVER CROSSING

We crossed the Hudson this afternoon
on a Dutch named bridge
in a driving rain so strong
you could hear little over the beat
of the wipers throwing sheets of water.
You wondered why the superstructure
was only on the Eastern end.
I wondered why they had to have
a Dutch name no one can translate.
The river’s surprisingly wide here
and you can’t even see the dead fish
or the waste from the plants up river,
its just a silver sheet of water
and the slashing of the wipers
and that name no one can translate.


First appeared in Calliope 21:1, 1997

MEMORY OF THE VINE

The conversation flows freely,
piles up on the table, amid
dishes from a meal
now fully consumed, as the
last of the wine reluctantly
cedes its grip on the bottle
and settles into the glasses.
In Abruzzi, the vintner
imagined this, staring
at the grapes pulled lovingly
from the now ancient vines.
As night draws its curtain
ever tighter, as hugs
replace the conversation,
the rest of the grapes
settle in for a final sleep.

FIRST PERIOD

They stand impatiently in line
chattering, giggling, tittering
like so many schoolgirls with secrets
they promised to keep to their deaths
and have to immediately tell a friend.
“Did you hear about Letitia?” one says,
and goes on to say she shared her journal
with several other girls in the eighth grade.
It goes on like this incessantly
as the barista, working alone as always,
gathers their order, places it in trays
so they can carry it back to school.
We wait patiently, trying to decide
What grade Shirley might be in,
whether shall be suspended again
for mouthing off to the hall monitor,
and how impatient the other teachers
in the lounge must be getting
waiting for their counterparts
to bring back the morning coffee.

FORGOTTEN PROCLAMATION

He was quite tall for then, even
tall for now, and that hat must have
added almost a foot, a mortician
likely as not, if not a lawyer.
He wrote eloquently, even if his voice
was not quite of his stature, his words
always had impact, digging in the
gray and blue bled soil of Pennsylvania.
Today would be eleven score
and nineteen and I doubt the forefathers
would recognize the creation or want to.
7800 dead, 27,000 wounded, all watered
the Pennsylvania Farms with tears,
and today the soil has been given over
to stark down signs telling us
what they think we ought to know,
devoid of pain, devoid of impact.
Eleven score and nineteen
and we say to those knocking
at our door, “not now, we’re full,
there is no room at this inn
for the likes of you and yours.”

STARING

A crane stands placidly
staring through the window
as we earnestly attempt
to imitate him, hoping
he will honor the effort
if not the result.
The master is graceful
and we are far less so, and
out of the corner of my eye
I see on the crane what could be
a smile, or as easily derision,
and take comfort in the thought
that the root of the word
is shared with laughter,
and we can accept that
not as a mark of failure but effort.
The crane returns to the pond
the master to his neigong
and we imagine we are
all noble birds awaiting flight.

SAY WHAT?

The introductions were relaxed
but complete as befits three people
in a small room, she the linchpin
knowing each of the others, utter strangers
to each other, save in her stories.
The men stared at each other gently
ensuring the other saw only a smile
for the better part of two minutes, basking
in the silence that introductions demand.
“I am really surprised,” the older man said,
“it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly
like what I imagined the adopted son
of Isadore Myers would look like
not more than 30 seconds ago.”
“It is truly odd,” the younger man replied,
“you look nothing at all like
the man I met in this room
not a second more than a minute ago,
and why, pray tell,
is that woman over there smiling?

BELLY OF THE BEAST

From within the belly of the beast
Sheol is a placid place, removed
from the waves rattling the timbers,

silent of the cries of the men
berating their fate, uncertain
as to the cause of their discomfort.

Let Nineveh burn, lets its people
scatter to the streets, let the King
stare out at the destruction and wonder.

He should need no prophet, no seer,
no interpreter of dreams to know
why all about him lies in ruin.

Inside the belly of the beast
it is warm, and comforting,
a womb from which one

should have no desire to be
cast out upon the land, or to drown
in the swirling waters of the angry sea.

There is only the hunger in the bowels,
and the blackness of a thousand nights,
a blackness darker than the shade

of the tree, which withers in the heat,
of the waters which disappear
before quenching the endless thirst.

Within the belly of the beast
there is no sound, no voice
to draw forth thoughts, no dreams

to disrupt the sleep that will not come,
only the void and the silence
and the cries that echo off baleen walls.

Nineveh lies in ruin, Sodom a pillar
of salt, the walls of Jerusalem lie
a jumble of stones, the oil of the lamp

seeps into the arid ground, and only
the weed springs forth to mark
the graves of the forgetting people.


First Appeared in A Writer’s Choice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1999