THE FIRST JEW ON MARS

The first Jew on Mars

sifts the red sands through gloved fingers
and kicks the small stone,
glares up at the heavens
the cold sun returning his stare
and waits patiently
for the rain of manna.

looks vacantly across the landscape
and curses under his breath
at the absence of a good
lean pastrami and a half sour,
or even Chinese take out.

pauses to wonder why God
left so much unfinished,
an endless desert to be wandered
for countless lifetimes,
no further tablets forthcoming —
perhaps He was tired, needed rest —
each day is Sabbath.

struggles to remember
the smoke rising from the chimneys,
the souls of a generation
whispering “do not forget us.”

shouts the Shema
to the void, imagining
it is falling on deaf ears.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).

OF THEE I SING

My ancestors stole your tongue
and left you mute in a world
you could not grasp.
                                           Now
as I search for words of forgiveness
I can find none, for my voice
is clogged with foreign phrases
that once told of your ancestors
who lived amid these rocks.
We schooled you, stealing
your spirit, which whispers to us
as the sun climbs slowly
over the great stone set deep
into the endless desert.
When the wind comes down
from the north, it sings a song
which cuts through our coats
and deeply into our bones.
There is no one who will claim us
when we are plundered for display
in some museum, no one to sing
a blessing to ward off the spirits
that will haunt us into the next life.
The ghosts of your people walk
among us and we can, at last,
hear their whispered entreaties
carried on the wind
deep into the canyon.

HOLY MOSES

Consider, for a moment                      
                                     he said
                                                           the absurdity of it all
a guy with brains enough
                                                                                           to shape universes
               who can flick on stars
                                                       with a thought
                                                                                         faster than you or I
                    can throw a switch who,
                                                                            worst case
                                                                                              gives a lizard a kick in the ass
and ends up with man
                                                           that a guy
with this kind of power

                             is going to write his story down
                                                                                             on a bunch
                                                          of tablets
                                                                                        or have an old coot
                            wander the desert endlessly
                                                                    pen and parchment in hand
                                                                                                                         taking dictation
           and then leave the scrolls
                                                               scattered in caves
                                  it makes no freakin’ sense.

If it was me
                                   he said
                                                        standing on a hill
                      watching some scrub pine
                                                                                            slowly burn onward
           no ashes, no embers
                                                               just keeps on burning
                             and if I heard a voice
                                                                              giving me orders
                when I couldn’t see anyone
                                                                             to go and slap

                                                                                                                        some soldier
                  upside the head
                                                               or march into a river hoping
                                                                                                          to find the stones
                            followed by miles
                                                                       of lemmings lined up
                                                                                                                        behind me
               not this kid
                                                me, I’d look for a screen
                                                                                                             and some short professor
                            from somewhere
                                                                               in Kansas.

Do you buy for a minute
                                                     he said
                                                                                that he would wander
                sucking sand from his navel
                                                                               and getting called
                                              to haul his ass up a mountain
                                                                                                                     for a crisis meeting
             and then have
                                                       to schlep tablets down the hill
                             eating hardtack
                                                                   and pretending to like it
            then telling his wife
                                                       he knew where he was
                         he wasn’t lost
                                                                   so what if it was forty years
            Miriam was
                                               really going to buy that
                                                                                                              and Aaron
          had to be
                                               thrilled
                                                                                   dragging the damn ark
                               like a bloody albatross
                                                                                       then looking down 
                   into the valley
                                                               he’s gonna say
        okay, that’s it
                                            go on without me
I just got word
                                           I gotta croak here
                   but keep a kind thought,     
                                                                                    fat chance of that ever happening.

BECAUSE

“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”-Shelley

I write
                                                                    because words must be said
words must be said
                                                                    because they eat at my tongue
they eat at my tongue
                                                                    because they recall the flames of the ovens
they recall the flames of the ovens
                                                                    because they were forced to shower
they were forced to shower
                                                                    because they were Jews
they were Jews
                                                                    because they embraced Torah
they embraced Torah
                                                                    because they walked through the desert
they walked through the desert
                                                                    because they followed the trail of manna
they followed the trail of manna
                                                                    because it led to freedom
it led to freedom
                                                                    because I saw it in a dream
I saw it in a dream
                                                                    because a voice whispered it to me
a voice whispered it to me
                                                                    because I write

AMONG ELDERS

I sit outside, on the mesa
having watched the mauve, fuchsia
and coral sky finally concede to night.
The two orange orbs sit
twenty yards away, staring back
and in this moment coyote and I
have known each other for moments,
and for generations, and we are content.
Coyote tells me he was once
an elder living in the old adobe
buildings, how he was a shaman,
still is, with his magic, and I
tell him of how I walked for years
in the desert, food appearing
from heaven, of how I crossed the sea
and some thought it parted for me.
Coyote and I are both old
and we know we each have stories
that no one would believe, and
so we are left to believe each other
and tell our stories to the sky gods.

HISTORY AS IT WAS?

The reason the Jews
spent forty years wandering
in the desert had nothing to do
with bad directions, or
generational turnover, according
to Larry’s father who worked
in advertising. It was
quite simply because God
got really pissed off
at Aaron’s marketing plan,
“A Golden Calf, my ass!”
is what he probably said.
“I had better start working
on a few alternative faiths if
I want to increase
my market penetration.”