CURFEW

We sat in the cramped kitchen
huddled around the stove
the open oven door spreading
a faint warmth that barely
slid through the winter chill.
The bare bulb in the ceiling
strained and flickered
fighting to hold as the generators
were shut down, and darkness
enveloped our small world.
The sky was lit by the flares
and the odor of exploding shells
seeped through the towel
sealed windows covered
in the tattered bedsheets
too thin to afford warmth.
Ibrahim had been gone two weeks
sneaking out of the city
to join his brothers in Gorazde
or Tuzla, or wherever it was
that they were struggling
to save what little was left.
We huddled under the small table
and dreamed of the taste
of fresh bread, or even pork.
In the morning he would run
among the craters in the streets
in search of the convoy
and the handouts, which we
would raven as the sun set
over our war torn hell.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

WAR (an acrostic)

SOMETIMES A POEM CANNOT WAIT

From the moment it began, we knew, it was

obvious that peace and freedom were under assault,

Russia had thrown societal norms to the wind.

Under gunmetal gray skies they attacked by air,

killing women, children, destroying hospital, homes

raining hell on the innocents with nowhere to turn.

All we could do was watch, pray and offer paltry aid

in the hope that this proud nation could hold out

negotiate some sort of peace, maintain their freedom,

emerge like the phoenix slowly rising from the rubble.

AFGHAN, ANYONE

Symbols have deep meaning
even to those so blind they
cannot see them, and our politics
have become wholly retail.

Any good retailer will tell you
that $19.95 is significantly
less than $20.00, a nickel
that swallows the dollars.

So we got out, and nineteen
years and 354 days
is considerably shorter
than twenty years we are told,

but everything blew up around us,
but I’m sure the politicians will note
that a dozen dead, while tragic
is far less than a baker’s dozen.

MARS

Mars has risen in the western sky.

Perhaps it is waiting for the moon
to draw our attention,
but the moon is periodically
irascible, as tonight, and has
chosen to abandon Mars
to the stellar firmament.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

I wander into the dark in search
of the peace that only
night affords, but the horizon
is war and disquiet
and I stumble and repeatedly
fall, and the ground holds me
denying me the sky.

Mars has risen in the western sky.

The plants that have reached
for the sun, and borne
fruit for months
now shrink and wither
under his unrepentant eye,
and I know a cold
foreboding wind will
still blow and I will mourn
the passing of summer,
the season on peace.

Mars has risen in the western sky
and Jupiter watches jealously.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

ARISING

It is far too early to think about that,
although many would say
it is already far too late.

That is the conundrum
in which we find ourselves,
defining our options, drawing
political lines that are
not dare crossed unless you
accept there can be no return.

And those who say it’s
too early, it can wait, must hope
that they can emulate
the Phoenix when they
have turned this world to ash.

GREAT DANGER

There are those who say
that we are engaged
in a culture war, and that
may be an apt description,
even as it misses its mark.

It is hardly cultures that
are at war, but those who
take shelter under their
false mantle, armored
in labels, shielded by cliches.

But the weapons of the war
are quite real, known
for ages, Stalin and Alexie
calling them out by turns,
for they pose the danger.

In this war it is ideas
that are wielded ruthlessly,
ideas to be most feared
if they are not shared,
ideas that must be suppressed.

SUDDENLY MORTAL

I now struggle to remember just when
my childhood suddenly ended, when
I became mortal, and the childhood fears
were replaced by those of the real world.

It might have been watching the news,
the planes at Dover disgorging coffin
after coffin, each neatly flag draped until
the flag became a symbol only of death.

It might have been the first time a kid
on the playground at school called me
Jewboy and asked why I didn’t also
perish in the ovens with my Polish kin.

It might have been as they wheeled me
into the operating room, my fever 105
unsure of what they would find, I then
unsure I would be alive to learn about it.

It might have been that as an adoptee
I knew I never had the childhood
of my natural born siblings, I always
the outsider, mom’s words notwithstanding.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and ManesĀ 

I HAVE NEVER BEEN

six foot four with a full head
of longish brown hair neatly cut

five foot ten as the Air Force
claimed although I never
conformed to their assumption

sitting on the deck of a yacht
trying to decide if it was
sufficiently large enough
to meet my desires

sitting on a beach in Hawaii
my oceanside villa
mere steps away,
the housekeeper beckoning
with a freshly made drink

lying in Arlington Cemetery
my life marked by a simple
white stone marker, name,
religion, and branch of service

But I am here, writing this,
and have no real complaints.