The name on the door
says Richard Strauss
though the lack of music
emanating from within the room
suggests he may be napping
or off doing something more important
than entertaining those of us
out in the hall of the nursing home.
It’s no surprise, he’d be
in a home now, more odd that
he isn’t long dead, but music
has a life of its own, so too musicians.
Johann Bach and I discussed this
just other night, though he
said he has little use
for so much of today’s music,
“It all went to Hades after Wolfgang,
Ludwig and Johannes, but
what do I know, since I am now
just one more of the ancients.”
Johann added, “I’d like to stay
and talk, but when you
are my age, well, tempus fugit,
and I must, therefore, bid you farewell.”
I slid quickly back into
the fugue state of my dreams.
The was a winter, once
where even in the north
the snow refused to fall
and ice rejected jamming the culverts,
the sky stared down in amazement.
That was the year trees would not bud
and flowers fled deeper
into the sweetness of the earth,
grass singed and lay indolent.
It was a year my coat of many colors
was taken, pieced out among brothers
until each had a color and none a coat.
I would sit at the right hand of kings
dreaming of a day when dreams
might refuse to visit and then,
starved of images
I could reinforce foundations
preparing for their visit.
I am strapped to the altar
and the knife is poised in the hand
of a man who would like to be a father,
both of us looking up for intervention.
There was a year, once
when the ram broke free
of the thicket and picked his way
down the hill to his young.
First Appeared in Arnazella, 2001. Reprinted on Website of Poets
Against the War, 2003. Reprinted in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29,
In our small world
night and day are separated
by dreams that escape
just beyond our consciousness.
We search for deeper meaning
even as we are certain
they will leave us as they have
long before we could remember.
That is the trouble with margins,
they ebb and flow without warning,
their arrivals and departures
unannounced, so listen carefully
and embrace the silence.
In the deepest, darkest portion of night
we are taught that dreams reside, that they
are not real, figments, fragments of imagination,
woven into an evanescent tapestry
that disappears upon waking, leaving only
a faint shadow to indicate its once presence.
Many like to believe this, for it
relieves them of ownership of dark thoughts
that night can unleash, like dogs of war.
To the dreamer, the dream is no less real
than the experience when awake, more real
on some occasions, so ask yourself
what if the dream is reality and
your waking existence is the fiction
and what is the difference which is correct
or if neither is, and dreams are
all the substance of our universe.
The small child peers through
the bamboo poles of the bridge
as he stares down at a turtle
who stares up at him with equal fascination.
His mother excitedly says, “see the turtle?”
Of course he can see the turtle
but he also sees an Ichthyosaurus
and giant whales and frightening fish.
Later, as she points out an iguana,
he will see the small lizard and all
manner of dinosaurs roaming,
a pterodactyl swooping overhead
mimicking a crow, for pterodactyl
have the same magical power as coyotes.
Tonight he will dream of all these beasts
the amazing lands he visited
while in the living room his mother
will tell his father, “Jonathan saw turtle today,”
for parents can only see with two eyes.
I called my mother the other day
and she did not answer, which
she would always do when I called.
The dead, I concluded, no longer
play by the rules they did
when they were still alive.
Of course she will call me soon,
disrupting my sleep, and chastise
me for not trying again.
But she will quickly slip into
reading the list of what
she expects from me, for
either living or dead,
mother’s expectations must
always be met, no matter what.
like a house of cards
it folds slowly
on itself, sliding
all that is left
is the memory
of what was
supposed to be
and a dream