PAPER CUTS

Paper is at once both
the cruelest invention a writer
may have stumbled across
and also her salvation.

The blank page invites,
often demands the pen
and is unjudging, yet the poet
may change or delete
but the paper retains the original
and throws it back in his face.

The computer, many say,
changed all of that, backspace
or highlight and delete and
that mistake, misuse, misadventure
is gone forever, but
with a wrong keystroke
all you may have is a blank screen
and your words so well shaped,
thoughts perfectly expressed
can be lost in the ether.

Where did I put that pen?

NOT YET

The man walked into the old diner
looking not at all happy,
dressed in what looked like
a white robe he found in some alley.

He ordered coffee and glanced
around, as if seeking one
familiar face, finding many
that looked like that

of his father, like him,
for that matter, and he knew
from this quick glance that
they were not yet ready,

not even close really, but he
had tried to tell Him that,
not that He listened, so the man
left some change on the table

walked out into the night,
and prepared to return home,
certain this visit, like the others
would never be deemed

a second coming.

TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT

I am there, a classroom,
elementary or middle school,
Charleston, West Virginia
1930’s, girls in proper skirts,
saddle shoes, the old woman
at the front of the room,
first day of a new year.

“Jones”, a hand goes up,
“Murphy”, another rises slowly,
“Padlibsky, what kind
of name is that, Jew, or
some kind or Ruskie maybe?”
A small voice answers
Lithuanian, ma’am.

A scene that never
happened, a name changed
so that day the teacher
called out “Wells”
and she smiled and
quickly raised her hand.

First Published in Culture & Identity, Vol. 2, The Poet (2022)

DECISION TIME

Checking the calendar, I see
that today I must make
a profound decision that will
affect my life for years to come.

I am certain it will not be
a simple decision, important
decisions seldom are, and this
offers multiple but no easy choices.

I have long taken the facile way
around the issue, a straightforward
“same as everyone else does”
approach that has gotten me by.

But it is time for a change, so I
am left with organizing my library
by month and day of birth of author,
year not counting, first name initial,

or, and here is where I am leaning
given my love of the film High
Fidelity, arranging them in
perfect autobiographical order.

AN OVERHEARD CONVERSATION

“It will never be what you think it should,
and not what you wish it to be,
unless by pure happenstance, so just
relax and allow things to happen as they will.”

“I know I can change the outcome, have
it conform more to my will with enough effort,
if others like you don’t get in the way,
so sit back and I will gladly show you.”

“Do what you wish, I won’t be a problem,
but when it doesn’t work out, do not
come to me complaining about the time
you wasted and I won’t say ‘told you so.'”

“Fine, then just sit there and watch,
but when the fish jump into my mouth
please remember they are mine and you
still have to dive for your dinner.”

TRANSFORMATION

There was a time, once, when
the most everything was metaphorical.
That was before the great metamorphosis
when everything was suddenly malleable.
No one was quite certain just what happened.
Most thought it was in the dead of night
when they, and most everyone else was
firmly in the grip of Morpheus, who was,
all knew, a shape shifter given easily
to change, a chameleon who relished
the amazement of people who
never could hope to see change coming.
When the clouds that foretold the future
were finally carried off, replaced
by the harsh light of the sun.
Then it all became clear,
the River flowed again, and
you stepped in knowing
it was a step you could never take again,
and at that moment the Buddha smiled.