BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021

PRISONER

This morning, I am certain
the earth pulled me down more strongly,
as though gravity needed to reassert itself,
having lost someone in its grip
to the virus, a common complaint
as we stumble through still another year.

I fought it off course, the birds
in the wetland at once admiring
my effort and laughing at what they knew
would ultimately be a futile gesture.

You belong to the earth, they said,
you arose from it, are bound to it
and it is a matter of time before
it reclaims you as it does with all.

It was easier, they added, in ancient days,
when the gods truly cared, for then
you need only sufficiently irritate them
before they would sever your earthy bonds
to serve eternity in a celestial prison.

IBIS SEEING YOU

They pause
in their foraging in the lawn
to peer up at us,
strange looking interlopers,
but they are used 
to us by now
and return 
to the task at hand.

We no longer 
find them strange
though we never quite
get used to the curved
salmon colored beaks,
and we do wonder
why the ancient 
Egyptians held 
them sacred.

It seems that they
have never forgiven
their Egyptian ancestors
from affixing
their head 
to a man, god
or no god, he
couldn’t find
a grub if his life
depended on it.

A LESSON TO TEACH

This is what 
I would tell my sons:
“You came from 
an ancient people,
a heritage of poets
and tailors, or thieves
and blasphemers,
of callous men
and slaughtered children.
I would give you these books,
written by God, some have said,
although I am doubtful
but driven by Erato, without doubt.”

This is what 
I would tell my sons:
“I didn’t go to war —
there were so many options
and I chose one where
my feet would touch
only Texas mud,
where the only bullets
were quickly fired
on the rifle range.
I wasn’t one of the 56,000.
I didn’t come home
in a body bag.
But I do stop at the Wall
each time I visit D.C.
and say farewell
to those who did.”

This is what
I would tell my sons:
“You have never known
the hunger for a scrap of bread
pulled from a dumpster,
you have never
spent a night on a steam grate
hiding under yesterday’s
newspapers from
the rapidly falling snow.
You never stood
nervously at the waiting room
of a dingy clinic
waiting for a young,
uncaring doctor to announce
that antibiotics would likely
clear up the infection
but you should avoid
any form of sex
for a couple of weeks.”

This is what
I would tell my sons:
“You come from 
a heritage of poets.”

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press 2008

ON THE BEACH

It washed up on the beach this morning,
stopped right at my feet, as I
stared down at it, examining it carefully.
It message was clear at first, a tale
too hard to swallow, of creatures
tossed about by a storm that no one
saw, from an age in which no one
now alive could have experienced.
The message described a magic land
of which it gave only had a brief glimpse,
a land that was constantly in flux
and perpetually out of reach.
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine
such a marvelous place, and as I did
it receded back into the ocean
from which it emerged, merged
with all of the others, and I
was left with only this dream of it.