ON ARRIVING

They arrive after a long flight
from tyranny, from oppression
from the nightmare of endless
fear, from hunger, from faith
denied, from the bottomless
depths of poverty, scarred
memories etched in their souls,
hoping for an ending as much
as wishing for a new beginning.
They have been here, a new
generation, raised on the stories,
versed in the painful history,
still residual anger born
of love for those who fled,
without the pain of experience,
who can forget when it is
others who now wish only
to arrive to the freedom they
have known since childhood

First appeared in Circumference, Issue 5, June 2022
https://poetryatpi.wordpress.com/

YOU THERE

We dance between wanting
to know what is out there,
and fearing that we are not
any longer unique, just one
more in an endless stream.

And then we have to wonder
if the others, such as they are,
wonder what is out there,
and fear that they are not
any longer unique, just one
more in an endless stream.

Has it always been this way,
have some already come
and gone in the flash
of a dying star, or grown
barren from neglect and greed?

Some want to know what
is out there, as out there
could become the only place
separating us from extinction.

R.I.P.

We are planning the funeral
for Roe today, eulogies
fully ready, for we are certain
the death was slow and painful
and now all we can do is mourn.

Some we know will not attend,
Brown out of fear, knowing
the eventual consequences
of this loss, Miranda because
he is already marked, hounded
by those in power, an easy mark.

Sullivan may be there, happy
that he can go after them again
if they even speak his name
innocently or by mistake.

It will be a sad moment, one
we have dreaded of late, one
we thought would never come
and we will mourn our dear friend
Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back
by those who vowed to defend him.

N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.

Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.  

IMMIGRATION

When you got off the boat
you must have been scared,
but getting away from that life
made the fear bearable.

I have no idea how you ended
up in West Virginia, it wasn’t
at all like Lithuania, and Jews
might have had two heads I imagine.

But you all made do, made
a community, invited others
and were tolerated if odd,
and I am certain you wonder

what happened, why now those
or their children’s children’s
children are so willing to shun
others whose only sin, like yours,

was wanting to get away
from horror, from persecution,
from fear, and make a life
in the hills of West Virginia.

MY ANNA

Along the banks of the barge canal
in the village park, a man
older, his hair white, almost
a mane, sits on the breakwall
feeding Wonder bread
to the small flotilla of ducks.
Tearing shreds of crust
from a slice, he casts it
onto the water and smiles
as they bob for the crumbs.
He tells them the story
of his life as though
they were his oldest friends.
My Anna, he says,
was a special woman,
I met her one night
in the cramped vestibule
of an Indian take away
in London during a blackout.
We heard the sirens and then
a blast, not far off.
She grabbed my arm in fear.
She was from Marlow-on-Thames,
she lived in a small flat
in the Bottom, she worked
days in a millinery,
and at night tended bar
at the Local, until the war.
She’s been gone two years now
and I miss her terribly
especially late at night.
A goose slowly swims over
awaiting her meal, she
looks deeply into his eyes.
How are you, dearest Anna,
it is not the same without you
late at night when the silence
is broken again by the sirens.

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

GREAT DANGER

There are those who say
that we are engaged
in a culture war, and that
may be an apt description,
even as it misses its mark.

It is hardly cultures that
are at war, but those who
take shelter under their
false mantle, armored
in labels, shielded by cliches.

But the weapons of the war
are quite real, known
for ages, Stalin and Alexie
calling them out by turns,
for they pose the danger.

In this war it is ideas
that are wielded ruthlessly,
ideas to be most feared
if they are not shared,
ideas that must be suppressed.

FORGETTING

What they don’t want to see, or are
perhaps blind to, is that it always
came down to boats, and fear was
always overcome, the ocean tamed.

Today, it is trucks, trailers, and still
boats, and fear is still overcome
for the promise of better, for
the hope for life without terror.

None of the arrivals came invited
many were turned away repeatedly,
but if they still breathed they
would continue the attempts for

such was the value of freedom,
from tyrants, oppressors and fear,
but we have forgotten them, those
who are why we are here today,

we so willing to build walls, to turn
others away for they have no
invitations, for we offer none,
the country being ours alone

ANGLE OF INCIDENCE

Dusk reflects dawn much as
dawn reflects dusk, and it is
our fear of night and deep need
for direction that sets them apart.

Imagine a photograph of the sun
hovering just over the horizon,
compass-less we do not know
what preceded, what will follow.

We prefer day and dawn, for
it is then we feel in control,
our thoughts leashed, our fears
locked away from sight and touch.

Dusk promises only night,
the darkness where our fears
find corners in which to hide,
only to spring out unwanted.

So we turn away from the sky,
unsinged by its flaming beauty,
hide ourselves from and in fear
as nature laughs at our foolishness.

ABOVE IT ALL

The cat likes nothing better
than to sit atop the kitchen cabinets
within easy reach of the ceiling.

We thought at first it was
a place of safety, less to fear
in a new home, new people.

We know better now, for she
goes to high places, cabinets
bookcases, when the meditation bell rings.,

She’ll climb down after
the ending bell rings, when we
emerge from our home Zendo, look

at us to see how our sitting went,
toss her head to indicate that she
came this close to kensho

or perhaps, she notes quickly
it was merely a brief nap, for we
cats are given to both in equal measure.

GRAMMATICALLY APART

What sets us apart
from other species
has little or nothing
to do with self-awareness
and everything to do
with parts of speech.

The birds outside
my window shun labels,
think only of eating,
mating, flight, of going
and arriving, of being.

They know nothing of birth,
do not fear death, for it
is merely a label they cannot
accept or understand.

It is left to our kind
to need to label, to define
every small and large thing
for we sense our existence
and must rely on two things,
for we knew that we live
a world of pronoun and noun.