SHINKANSEN VIEW

At first it was a checkerboard of ponds
neatly arrayed, reflecting the sun,
the work of man, for God so rarely
plays geometrician with creation, less
often still using right angles.
Soon enough green blades reach up
through the shirred surface, random,
reaching for a sun they can never touch.
It is a field soon, the water
pooling at the roots is lost
in the emerald sea its waves
now generated by the wind
from the distant mountain.
It is marigold yellow now, fading
day by day to curry, the spikelet
slowly letting go their grip
on the grains that will soon lie
on the bamboo mats, drinking
the last of the sun they will know.

THE FIRST JEW ON MARS

The first Jew on Mars

sifts the red sands through gloved fingers
and kicks the small stone,
glares up at the heavens
the cold sun returning his stare
and waits patiently
for the rain of manna.

looks vacantly across the landscape
and curses under his breath
at the absence of a good
lean pastrami and a half sour,
or even Chinese take out.

pauses to wonder why God
left so much unfinished,
an endless desert to be wandered
for countless lifetimes,
no further tablets forthcoming —
perhaps He was tired, needed rest —
each day is Sabbath.

struggles to remember
the smoke rising from the chimneys,
the souls of a generation
whispering “do not forget us.”

shouts the Shema
to the void, imagining
it is falling on deaf ears.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).

ETERNITY OR A WEEK

He only wants to live
forever, or if not, at least
until a week from Thursday.
Important things always happen
on Wednesdays, he is convinced.
He has no logical reason
for his belief, but it is his
and he will not be shaken from it.
“It is a matter of faith,” he says
“and you can borrow it or leave it,
but it’s mine.” He does like
to own things, and ideas are
the greatest things in his world.
He is certain he will die
on a Wednesday, not that his death
will be all that important, though
he wouldn’t mind it so,
but he wants to be cremated,
wants some of his ashes left
in a church, any church, just
to let them know we are all
created in God’s image
and this Wednesday will
for him, Ash Wednesday.

ONCE A GOD

Pluto is now undecided
though that does not seem to trouble many.
It was one thing to be a god,
albeit always thought of as lesser,
for that is what happens when
you rule a place no one wants to visit,
like being the greeter at the door
of the largest Wal-Mart in Hell.
It was nice being a planet, even
if no one ever visited, but that
was taken away by those
who now deem themselves gods,
replacing all of his peers
and consigning them to orbit
a star that has no real name.
But now they say, just perhaps,
Pluto is a planet, and that has
given rise to a debate, while
no one asks Pluto’s opinion, and he
just wants to be left alone
in his dark corner of the solar system.

AND CHARITY

Faith, or is it hope, seems
directly proportional to the need
we have to believe in what
some would call a miracle.
In Hebrew the word for charity
can also be translated justice.
Faith, he says, is hope
with a Godly intervention
for hopes can easily go
unfulfilled, but faith lingers,
and isn’t given up willingly,
for even when hope is gone,
faith in a miracle remains
for those most in need.
No one seeks charity,
everyone seeks justice,
and most hope and
have faith that there is
in the final analysis
no real distinction.

KNOT WHAT YOU THINK

“Trying to explain the Old Testament is like trying to untie a series of Gordian Knots.” He said that often, and few argued with him. Whether they did not argue because they agreed, or simply wanted to avoid his unwillingness to cease pushing until the other or others conceded whatever point he was making hardly mattered. He knew nothing about the New Testament. He wasn’t even sure to what it was a Testament, though he could say that of the Old as well. It was just that one set of Gordian knots was enough, unless and until he could find his philosophical scissors, and God only knew where they had gone.

THOSE WHO CAN’T DO (OR TEACH)

“You know,” she said, “it is the critics,
they are the real problem, all holy
and self-proclaimed arbiters of taste,
deciding what is and is not art, as if
God spoke late one night and declared
to each one that he or she and only
he or she would determine what is art.”
I wanted to argue with her, but I
was standing in a gallery where
the signs requested silence, that
and I really had no argument
with what she said, for I knew
that taste was personal, that art
had no hard metrics, this is, this isn’t,
there is no ruler, no gauge, no scale.
Add to that the fact that I
truly love exotic mushrooms, morels,
enoki, the odder the better, and she
finds all fungus disgusting, belonging
in its earthly grave, and though wrong,
it is her taste after all, so there it is.