TODAY

Today we want very much to pray
but words fail us yet again, and we doubt
God would hear our entreaty anyway,
since this is a disaster of our own making.

This is the problem of free will, as so many
discovered across Europe during the second
of the wars to end all wars, as did the people
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well.

If God listened we would hear a reply:
“You made this mess, it is up to you to fix it
so get on with it, but do wait until
the pandemic subsides a bit more if you would.”

PANDEMIC DREAMS

What I most want to do now,
locked in by something unseen,
is to wander the streets of cities
here, Europe, it hardly matters,
and find statues whose plaques
are worn away or gone missing,
now nameless souls of once
lesser fame meriting a bronze
or of such ego as donating
their own image to the town.

They are forgotten souls, often
rightfully so no doubt, but even
the forgotten deserve a name
merit a history and higher purpose,
and I would offer those, with
Banksy-like labels, this old bearded
man, now Ignatius Fatuus, best
remembered for inventing
the pyramidal bread pan, where
each loaf is uniformly burned on top,
and there Shoshanna Chesed,
who pointed out that if we were
created in God’s image, it is
likely God is a woman given
the planet’s gender distribution,
before the zealots stone her
for blasphemy, insuring their own
ultimate, eventual ticket to hell.

But perhaps the virus will grow
tired of us, mutate, and go after
one of the myriads more intelligent
species we have not yet foolishly
or greedily rendered extinct.

First appeared in The Poet: A New World, Autumn 2020

STEPPING IN IT

Over the next few weeks I shall
step into more churches than is safe
for a formerly Jewish Buddhist, but
in Europe it seems no tour is complete
without one or more churches, at least
one of which will be the most
beautiful cathedral in all of [choose
any country you wish and inserted here.]
I will take off my hat, for that is easier
than the opprobrium of the faithful,
I will stare at the beauty of the stained-glass,
try, in some cases, to ignore its message,
and hope, beyond all logic, that this group
will stop at a synagogue were all
of the men and women, save me
will have to put on kippot or head scarves
and most will vow it will be their last visit
do such a heathen place, at least until
they get to Antwerp or Amsterdam.

STATUE

“You have to go all the way to Washington,”
he said, “to find decent statuary.”
“Oh, you can find one or two in almost every city.
Its founder, some general or admiral,
some animal that oddly represents
a metropolis that has cast out its animals,
or penned them up in zoos, put them on leashes.
New York has quite a few, Boston as well,
and Chicago, well it likes sculpture,
but spend half an hour in Vienna
and you are overwhelmed with statuary.
Maybe they have lower standards there,
or far more history, but I suspect it is
that they don’t rush about on the winds
of whim, despite our endless example to them.

DROWING ON DRY LAND

Cities should abut rivers. The better of them do, and the best still have rivers running through them. That is the nature of a great city, it allows you to look at a river from both of its banks, and still be in the heart of the city. In Europe, this is an expectation,  it is how cities were born, how they grew, outward from their heart and soul.  So no one is surprised when wandering a great city, say Prague, Paris, or Budapest, to find a river carving its way through. Cities abutting oceans can only look outward, the water seeming infinite, as though the part of the city that ought to be on the other side has been washed away. Oceans imprison cities, and carry their dreams off to drown.