THE NATURAL KEY TO HEAVEN

The hawk sits on a branch
looking up at the sky, knowing
this is perfection, lifting up
chasing a cloud, floating lazily.

The butterfly flits from plant
to plant, tasting the fruits
that nature has given her,
perfection in a single moment.

The cat sleeps on a rocker
the breeze rustling her coat,
until waking for dinner
which appears at her request.

We spend hours searching
for the keys to heaven, hoping
to insure what comes after this
life, but so often not living it.

PARADE

They strut across our lawn oblivious to our stares. The cat sits watching these large objects, birds perhaps she thinks, but nothing like those she once hunted for food when she was homeless and pregnant. She is content to sit and watch them, speaks a momentary hello, and realizing that they do not speak cat, settles down for her pre-dinner nap.

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.

SHARED VISION, ONCE REMOVED

Stevie and I were probably eight
sitting on the front stoop of our flat,
he the only one in third grade smaller than me.
There was no snow to be seen,
none in the sky, none on the frozen
and still patchy lawn, just the wind
of an always cold December day.
Christmas is coming, I said
aren’t you excited, with all the gifts.
Stevie smiled, they’re always great
but maybe this year I’ll finally meet Santa.
I laughed, lacking the heart
to shatter an infantile dream.
Do you buy into the sled
and reindeer thing, or does he come
more by way of magic.
Of course it’s the sled, but
I wouldn’t be surprised
if it had some pretty good jet engines.
And you think he comes
down the chimney I asked.
We don’t have one, you know that
so he must use a back window,
the one where I broke the lock
last summer when we were spies.
He looked momentarily sad,
you don’t have anything like Santa,
although you get lots of neat gifts,
just not all at once.
At least eight, most years more
but you’re right we have no Santa,
but we have something even better.
Better how, what could be better?
Each year at Passover, Elijah
comes in during our Seder
I don’t see him but we have
to open the door for him during dinner.
Does he bring you anything?
He’s not like that, he just comes
all old and bearded, and
before you can even see him
he’s gone again, probably next door
at the Goldstein’s or maybe
with Larry Finkel, though his mom
can’t cook very well.
So what’s he do, this Elijah?
Not much, I admitted,
but he does have a drinking problem.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

DINNER PARTY

Technology has effectively
destroyed the intimate
dinner parties that once
were the core of a social life.

You fretted over whether
the souffle would collapse,
if the wine was chilled
to the right temperature,
if the entree was back timed
sufficiently to allow time
for the hors d’oeuvres
and if the guests would
arrive at the scheduled time.

Now it is a fear that Grubhub
or Doordash will be late,
that you must remember
to hide the packaging from
the heat and serve appetizers
and if it will be nice enough
to eat outside, or if you will
need to check vaccination cards.

FIRST KISS

You ask me if I remember
when we first kissed, and then add
and what was it really like for me.

I know the answer you expect,
and I am reluctant to tell you
otherwise, but I have to be honest.

It was moments after I left you
at your door on our first date,
having found my car finally
in the parking garage near
the coffee house downtown.

I had just gotten in the car
to drive to my apartment
in the distant suburbs, and
turning on the ignition, I
kissed you passionately
on the lips, all eyes closed.

And, it was wonderful, though
the kiss we shared in reality
later that month put it to shame.

ON THE MENU

The waiter we know so well
tells tonight’s server
that we are poets and she
should ask us to order
in iambic pentameter.
We write him a limerick,
which she delivers with a smile
before returning with our wine
and a pad to take our order.
She seems somewhat sad
when our order lacks rhythm
and I explain that vegetarian
just will not be iambic.
she smiles and says until the meal is done
one night only can’t you just be vegan
even if dessert must be dactylic.

HILLEL AT THE GOLDEN DRAGON

I am honored that this poem was just published in the Fall/Winter Issue of the  Atlanta Review,

I had dinner the other night
with Rav Hillel
in a small Chinese place
just off Mott Street.
I asked him what it was like
in the afterlife, after all the years.
It gets a bit boring, he said,
now that old Shammai
has lost his edge,
just last month
for each Chanukah night
he lit four candles
from the center out
in each direction.
I told him
the steamed pork buns
were beyond belief,
he said try the shrimp dumplings
even better if you eat them
standing on one foot.
I asked him how he spent his days
and he only smiled,
most days I search
for Van Gogh’s ear
though that alte cocker Shammai
says it was Theo’s ear
that Vincent lopped off,
although Vincent wore
a bandage around his head.
It’s really not so bad
he said, there’s even
a lovely sculpture
just inside the garden gate
that bears a striking resemblance
to old Lot’s wife, not that she
was ever capable
of sitting still all that long.
He bid me farewell
and though I looked
for a fiery chariot,
he climbed into
his ’91 Taurus
with the hanging bumper
and rust spots, and drove slowly off.
Thanks for dinner, he shouted,
as I footed the bill yet again.