HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.

HERE-ISH, NOW-ISH

In this moment we, the two of us,
are here in this precise place
and there are an infinite number
of places we might be.
But we want to be here,
just here, nowhere else.
We are aging, but in this moment
we are exactly the right age
and to be younger or older
would do nothing for us.
When I curl against you
as the morning light struggles
to pierce the pulled blinds
and stroke your arm
my fingers are in the only
place my fingers want to be.
Here, now, together.

MORNING

In that moment
when the gentle chirping
of a small bird
resounds as a pounding
spring deluge, washes away
the creak and thrum
of passing cars, when she sings
only to you, her small voice
drawn in to your ears, your
mind, until it fades
slowly like the bell
and you wait for it
to strike again, to feel
it seep down your spine,
ooze into your fingers
and toes, pool in bent
knees and elbows, folded hands.
In that moment
the gentle chirping
is your voice, and you
are perched in the weeping
cherry tree in the garden
preening in the morning sun.


First published in Creatopia, Issue 5, Spring 2022
https://creatopia.studio/creatopia-collection-magazine/spring-2022-renewal-magazine/

LIONEL HAMPTON AND THE GOLDEN MEN OF JAZZ

Blue Note, pardon
our construction
black painted
plasterboard
a hanging
air conditioning duct.

Grady Tate
sneering at the skins
growling at a high hat
hands shifting
deftly reaching in
picking a beat
and sliding it
over the crowd.

Jimmy Woode
blind to the lights
slides his fingers
over strings
and talks to the bass
resting on his shoulder.
It sings back
begging , pleading
demanding as his head
sways with an inner vision.

Junior Mance
sways slowly fingers
tentative on ivory plates
crawling through the alley
scurrying for cover
and strutting down Broadway
ablaze in neon
dancing through Harlem
and sliding into the East River.

Pete Candoli
white against the night
smiles as his horn
cries out, a siren
piercing the dark
reaching up grabbing
your throat, throttling
then caressing your face
until you fall
into your seat, spent.

Harry “Sweets” Edison
wrinkled jowls suck in
the city, smooth ebony balloon
shouting from balconies
to revelers below
and mourning a love,
crying in the streets
dashing out of a basement
flat, a child crying
mother screaming in birth
a young man
groaning in orgasm.

Benny Golson
hair tied back
swaying, runs up the stairs
pauses, and leaps out
into the air
and flies off
laughing at the city
huddled below
its collar turned
against the wind
off the river.

Frank Foster
sits on the stool
and strokes
his sax, coaxing it
peering out around
a corner, slipping inside
then running down the street
dancing between taxis,
then striding down
Bourbon Street
the pall bearers
strutting behind.

Al Grey, stands
arm waving, a manic
conductor, it whispers
beckoning, then hums
droning, then slowly
it moves the fan
giving a glimpse
dragging the boa
drawing all eyes
as she passes into the wings
sticking her head out
smiling at the cheers.

Hampton leans
on the vibraphone
seeking balance,
and old man bent
from age, lost amid children.
Mallets slowly rise and fall
gaining speed
rushing out
glissando of sound
his hands flashing
the crowd rises
and there comes
silence.

First Appeared in Pointed Circle, Issue 15, 1999.

ONE DAY

We stood trapped between
slack-jawed and reverent
looking at the woman sitting
cross-legged outside the doorway
lovingly fashioning a pot,
her gnarled fingers gentle
on the yielding clay.

Others this day fashioned
rings and pendants
simple tools on silver
and one of a kind treasures
they would lay out
on blankets hoping we
would want more
than just a photograph.

Our day on the Taos Pueblo
ended too early, its
memories lingering
a lifetime.

Bodhidharma’s Mind 無門關 四十一

Walk slowly up to Bodhidharma
but do not pull him away
from the wall before which he sits.
Keep your arms close about you
lest you cannot grasp
what he will ask.

Hold tight to your mnd
for it will grow still only
as it slips through your fingers
When you see it fade away
Samadhi bathes you.

A reflection on Case 41 of the Mumonkan (Gateless Gate) koans.

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

RECITAL

The keys didn’t frighten me. 88 of them, but I’d never use the majority, probably. And the ones I knew were generally well behaved, although they did defy me from time to time, and then said it was my fault, they didn’t respond to wishes, just fingers, And even the audience didn’t bother me, not even those who were still awake.. They were all parents like mine, and I knew no matter how I played the piece, well, badly, brilliantly, or disastrously, the composer would be silent and the audience full of compliments. My fellow pianists wouldn’t even hear it, heard nothing if they hadn’t yet played, kept replaying their piece in their head if they had.

TAILORING

My adoptive
grandfather 
could take bits
of cloth, 
a needle, thread
and with magicly
gnarled fingers
create a garment
fit for royalty, 
to be worn
by the old woman
living 
in the walkup 
down the street.

I take words
bits of ideas
and hope,
and with 
manicured fingers
create what
I can only hope
passes for poetry
to be ignored
by those
living nearby
in my suburb.