PURSE AND WALLET

A woman’s purse is inviolable territory
she tells me, and no man dare look within
unless invited and that is as unlikey to happen
as a man is to fully understand a woman.

What she doesn’t say, but what time has
demonstrated to me repeatedly, is that
within that small space is the solution
to most of life’s pressing problems, a balm

for small emergencies, and a truth, the release
of which would loose upon those proximate
the sort of shock that Pandora only promised,
and I have more than enough problems of my own.

She asks what I keep in my over-fatted wallet
and I tell her it is not money, but thoughts
that haven’t come to fruition, and dreams
unrealized because they defy reality.

So, she says, your wallet is full of the stuff
that gets you through a day, that give you
hope for the next, and that marks your
ever present failure of irrational dreams.

ALOFT

He had always imagined covering
his body in feathers.
He knew it wouldn’t make him able
to take flight, but it would, he was certain
grant him a certain lightness
that gravity and daily life denied him.
And he knew that once covered
in his dreams he could soar
free of the restrictions that
his conscious mind imposed on him,
restrictions, he knew, that were
the only reason he wasn’t
even at that moment
peering down at the world
while moving across
the sunlit sky of an autumn afternoon.

CALLER

It’s Sunday, so I know, before long
I will have the nagging thought
that I should call my mother.
I’ve had this thought for years,
once acted upon it with regularity,
listened patiently for her weekly
list of things I needed to help her with,
since I never visited to do the work
with her standing over my shoulder.
I stopped the calls four years ago
because the dead make few demands,
and she didn’t bother to answer
except in the darkest hour
of my dreams.

BROKEN DAY

Morning slowly encroaches
on your dreams, eroding
images despite your tightening grasp.
Clear lines blur, become hazy
and dissipate bleached
by the first light creeping
around the shades.
The dreams do not care
for they will arise again
when they choose
and this is for them
a mere inconvenience.
You are the loser here
for the linear mindstring
once cut never reties
with simplicity and something
is always lost in the tying.

33,000

As 33,000 feet, you want the smoothness
that experience tells you, the sky
will once again deny.
Strapped in, you contemplate cursing
the gods of travel, but no,
they are simply meeting your expectations.
Getting this close to heaven was once,
she says, a mystical and spiritual experience,
but then we transcended all of that
with the first step on the lunar surface,
overall a small step from one man
and a crushing of dreams for all
but the great religious cynics of mankind.
With clouds below obscuring all you know
the sun is mocking, surrounding
your dark mood, painting it darker
and you begin to hope that the thunderstorm
that will greet your arrival can somehow
wash away the hesitation of an eternity
trapped in a seat on the lowest margins of heaven.

AROUND

What they simply cannot understand
is what his take as a vinyl disc
is a moment in a life, a memory encased,
over which a dancing stylus bleeds dreams
and a history of time is written
on the back of its sleeve.
They cannot grasp that music
doesn’t fit neatly in your pocket,
that your neck can grow tired
from the weight of the headphones
bringing voices and instruments to life.
They want all of life portable,
we only want to sit, to be anchored
and watch the disc and our lives
spin slowly around, in a musical kinhin.

NAM

He said, “I survived the war,
was up to my armpits in water
wading through the night
through the rice plants
that would never bear grain
once we called in the orange.
I walk through minefields,
the noise a deafening silence
since the only sound that mattered
was the click that shouted death
You think Ii have issues now
and in your mind I certainly do
but you my issues didn’t go away
like Jamie’s, he heard that click and a moment
later his issues were gone, and the moon
was painted blood red that night
and it inhabits my dreams still.

SLIP SLIDING AWAY

Merriam-Webster declared me an orphan
yesterday morning, when my father
slipped away from his morphine dreams.
Some would argue I cannot be an orphan
at my age, that is a sanctuary reserved
for children, but I am long past
admitting my age, and my behavior
gives no lie to my claim of childhood.
I will continue to miss him, for his dementia
stole him memory by memory over the years,
and I was left to fill the void
with stories of my childhood, remembered
and imagined, to him there was no difference.
I can now fully mourn my birth mother,
gone for years before I found her, and
my birth father, who I can now claim and
at the same time assume dead, more
a commentary on my advancing age
than any reflection on him, save
in the mirror and the faces of my grandchildren.
And now the two men who adopted me
and the woman they really wanted,
and I are no longer part of the same package.

BELLY OF THE BEAST

From within the belly of the beast
Sheol is a placid place, removed
from the waves rattling the timbers,

silent of the cries of the men
berating their fate, uncertain
as to the cause of their discomfort.

Let Nineveh burn, lets its people
scatter to the streets, let the King
stare out at the destruction and wonder.

He should need no prophet, no seer,
no interpreter of dreams to know
why all about him lies in ruin.

Inside the belly of the beast
it is warm, and comforting,
a womb from which one

should have no desire to be
cast out upon the land, or to drown
in the swirling waters of the angry sea.

There is only the hunger in the bowels,
and the blackness of a thousand nights,
a blackness darker than the shade

of the tree, which withers in the heat,
of the waters which disappear
before quenching the endless thirst.

Within the belly of the beast
there is no sound, no voice
to draw forth thoughts, no dreams

to disrupt the sleep that will not come,
only the void and the silence
and the cries that echo off baleen walls.

Nineveh lies in ruin, Sodom a pillar
of salt, the walls of Jerusalem lie
a jumble of stones, the oil of the lamp

seeps into the arid ground, and only
the weed springs forth to mark
the graves of the forgetting people.


First Appeared in A Writer’s Choice, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1999