FIRST TIME

It looks perfectly normal, the kind
of restaurant you would seek out
on a Friday night in a distant city.
The people look like those you know
or could know, those from home for instance.
She is not remarkable, blonde, older,
a slightly twisted smile, blue eyes,
but on meeting there is a sudden distance
as though this is not a normal world,
certainly not the world where
you first met a cousin, and you have
a nagging feeling, which grows during the meal
that one of you is an alien, an avatar
from some other world, parallel perhaps,
and this reality is anything but, although
the pennette is quite remarkable.
Would you meet your first true relative at age 62
you know that while blood may be thicker than water,
it also congeals just as easily.

WINTER, AGAIN

The snow began falling this morning
the dry, almost greasy snow that defies
the plows running up and down the streets,
too shallow for the salters to begin.
Cars slide to a stop, or nearly so,
at the intersection, and you know
it is merely a matter of time before two
will simultaneously, and there will be
a loud crunch of metal, gesticulating of hands,
He would stay and watch, as he does
auto racing, but the temperature
has breached single digits, the wind
has taken up winter’s challenge, and
he knows only a fool would
venture or stay out in this.

SNAKE EYES

They roll in, one after the next,
after the next, gaps that appear
in their rank are soon enough filled.
By night you mark them
by their red lights, lemmings
with no cliff in sight, so they sit
one alongside the next in the queue,
disgorging their chattering, smiling contents
into the vast building, and wait
the prescribed period of time until
they swallow up their contents again,
far lighter in wallet, and leaving
the cacophony of the casino floor behind,
withdraw into the night.

ARMAGEDDON

There are a group of them
who stare at the sky
knowing it is coming
launched on its course
at the beginning of time
which has no beginning.
Some say it will be soon
others are less certain when
but all accept without question
its inevitability, and wonder
what will remain in its
aftermath, seas evaporated,
continents blotted, it is easy
I tell them, there will be
a freaking big mess
for the roaches to clean up.


First Appeared in Pandaloon, 1996.

SOUL MUSIC

The first time I heard Mozart,
I swore I was in a biblical garden
and I was content to sit and listen for eternity.
The serpent came along, as they do in such gardens,
as I recall, with the face of Beethoven, though now
I am convinced it was just Mahler trying to pass.
I still stop and eat from the fruit of Mozart on occasion,
but once the food was there for the taking, but
now it has to be purchased, and even here
you pay and never know until you bite into it
just how fresh and juicy it might be.
And lately, so much has been overpowering
that I cannot digest it,
and my growing deafness makes
each purchase agonizing, even though
I know if I went without, I
wouldn’t starve, save for my soul.

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.