BENT ARROW

He would never understand how time developed a flexibility that defied the laws of physics. An hour, a minute, a second, they were all standard measures. Each the same as every other. Yet lately they had changed, flexed. For the most part they had gotten shorter, shrunken. He knew that wasn’t possible until he remembered Einstein’s famous quote.* But perhaps that Einsteinian law applied only to those of a certain growing age, like his.

*Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute.

MIRROR MIRROR

The person I see each morning
looks vaguely familiar, perhaps
someone I once met in passing,
or maybe a distant relative.
But he was so much older
so he was difficult to place.

I do say hello each morning
but get only a nod, a gesture
in response, as if the person
is mute, for he smiles back
so it is not a silence born
of anger or displeasure.

I will of course keep trying
for I know that I will
one day recognize his all
too familiar face, and I
need to act now for he is
aging quickly so my time
is limited, and in any event
the mirror does need cleaning.

HERE-ISH, NOW-ISH

In this moment we, the two of us,
are here in this precise place
and there are an infinite number
of places we might be.
But we want to be here,
just here, nowhere else.
We are aging, but in this moment
we are exactly the right age
and to be younger or older
would do nothing for us.
When I curl against you
as the morning light struggles
to pierce the pulled blinds
and stroke your arm
my fingers are in the only
place my fingers want to be.
Here, now, together.

ROAMING

It is a sign of advancing age
or increasing love and passion
that I no longer imagine
chucking it all and wandering
off of some unplanned journey.

Next flight out please, I
don’t care where it is going,
so long as I have money left
for food and some basic lodging,
no baggage besides my carry on.

Of course today that would
land me in the interrogation
room or whatever TSA
calls it these days, for I must
be a terrorist or crazy person.

So I’ll stay here, visit friends
between visits to doctors,
salve my arthritis, degenerating
spine, failing eyes, and imagine
the places I might have gone.

LIONEL HAMPTON AND THE GOLDEN MEN OF JAZZ

Blue Note, pardon
our construction
black painted
plasterboard
a hanging
air conditioning duct.

Grady Tate
sneering at the skins
growling at a high hat
hands shifting
deftly reaching in
picking a beat
and sliding it
over the crowd.

Jimmy Woode
blind to the lights
slides his fingers
over strings
and talks to the bass
resting on his shoulder.
It sings back
begging , pleading
demanding as his head
sways with an inner vision.

Junior Mance
sways slowly fingers
tentative on ivory plates
crawling through the alley
scurrying for cover
and strutting down Broadway
ablaze in neon
dancing through Harlem
and sliding into the East River.

Pete Candoli
white against the night
smiles as his horn
cries out, a siren
piercing the dark
reaching up grabbing
your throat, throttling
then caressing your face
until you fall
into your seat, spent.

Harry “Sweets” Edison
wrinkled jowls suck in
the city, smooth ebony balloon
shouting from balconies
to revelers below
and mourning a love,
crying in the streets
dashing out of a basement
flat, a child crying
mother screaming in birth
a young man
groaning in orgasm.

Benny Golson
hair tied back
swaying, runs up the stairs
pauses, and leaps out
into the air
and flies off
laughing at the city
huddled below
its collar turned
against the wind
off the river.

Frank Foster
sits on the stool
and strokes
his sax, coaxing it
peering out around
a corner, slipping inside
then running down the street
dancing between taxis,
then striding down
Bourbon Street
the pall bearers
strutting behind.

Al Grey, stands
arm waving, a manic
conductor, it whispers
beckoning, then hums
droning, then slowly
it moves the fan
giving a glimpse
dragging the boa
drawing all eyes
as she passes into the wings
sticking her head out
smiling at the cheers.

Hampton leans
on the vibraphone
seeking balance,
and old man bent
from age, lost amid children.
Mallets slowly rise and fall
gaining speed
rushing out
glissando of sound
his hands flashing
the crowd rises
and there comes
silence.

First Appeared in Pointed Circle, Issue 15, 1999.

JOSHU’S CYPRUS TREE

A young child
does not ask for meaning,
all things are
as they are
until they are not.
The foolishness of age
causes men to stare
in search of meaning
they will never find.
It is the blind man
who will find the diamond.

A reflection on case 119 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye) Koans

OF DREAMS

I am now of an age
where I can no longer remember
what terrors gripped my sons
in their dreams, causing them
to appear beneath our blankets,
I relegated to the bed’s edge.

Perhaps there were none
and I was destined to be
an edge sleeper, the boys
taking advantage as a joke
played out night after night.

I know what dreams now
can rip me from sleep, a
chill beyond that of the A/C
running down my spine like
nightmare sciatica, until I banish
the dream and wait to see
what its replacement offers.

GREATLY EXAGERATED

Many now say the age of great literature
has died, the mortal woiund inflicted
by the advent of the self-correcting
IBM Selecric typewriter, when words
bcame evanescent, as suddenly gone
as when they spilled onto the page.

Others, I count myself among them,
believe the wound was not fatal,
deep certainly, but yet there remains
a faint pulse, ressuscitation possible
with the application of utmost care.
For there forbears florid phrasing
in the forethoughtful flow of the fountain
pen, precious and pure prose and poetry
in the precise point of the Pilot pen.

Perhaps, if you happen upon this
small scrap of scrip, you will
see the possibility in this proposition.

BEARDED

It is growing more common for men
of a certain age, one I have attained,
to grow beards, and that was before
the pandemic made them ubiquitous
among those of the male gender.

I noted this aloud and a young child
smiled at me and said, “of course,
you have to have a beard because
the hair inside your head has to go
somewhere other than your bald head.”

ADAM SMITH BE DAMNED

It is odd to discover
that time obeys the economic
laws of supply and demand
but as I have aged, that
has become ever more clear
as my supply has dwindled,
my demand remains constant
and the value increases accordingly.

That may explain why, now,
I am content to check the scores
and read the stats of my favorite
football or baseball team, getting every bit
as frustrated with their performance
without investing three plus
hours for an hour of action.

This has worked out
quite well, but I am concerned
that they may start winning,
and that I will become another
recidivist looking everywhere
for a Sports Fan Anonymous meeting.