RETIRED

God sits at his easel, brush in hand
and thinks about the butterfly
alighting on the oak.
This man would rather paint
the nightmare of hell, but
he has been cast out and
his memory has grown dim.
He remembers being a small child
amused by the worm peering
from soil in a fresh rain and how
when he split it, both halves
would slither away
in opposite directions.
Now he rocks in the chair
and watches night fall
and shatter on the winter ground.

First Appeared in Medicinal Purposes: A Literary Review, Vol. 1, No. 6,
Spring 1997.

REAL TIME

Reality is clearly something to be avoided
to be dressed up in tattery, tied in ribbons,
perfumed, yet its fetid stench
is always lurking in the background
waiting to pierce your nostrils
in an incautious moment until you retch
and bring up the bile that marks
the darker moments of your life,
the kind that lingers in the throat
which no chocolate can erase.
Reality is often ugly, so we ignore it
or hide it behind masks, or offer it
willingly to others, a gift in surfeit.
It sneaks up on you, and sets its hook
periodically, and thrashes you at will,
the barb tears through new flesh,
setting itself deeper, intractable.
You and I are dying, as I write,
as you read, an ugly thought
particularly lying in bed
staring into darkness,
no motion or sound from your spouse,
mate, paramour, friend, significant other
or teddy bear, where God
is too busy to respond at the moment
and sleep is perched in the bleachers,
held back by the usher for want
of a ticket stub, content to watch
the game from afar.
I cast ink to paper, an offer of reality
as though the divorce from the words will erase
the little pains and anguishes of our
ever distancing marriage, while
holding vainly onto the warm and sweet,
the far side of the Mobius of reality
(the skunk is at once ugly and soft and caring).
We write of pain, of ugliness, of anger
at terrible lengths, or weave tapestries
of words to cover the flawed, stained walls
of our minds, like so many happy endings,
requisite in the script. Basho
knew only too well that truth of beauty
should be captured in few syllables.

First Appeared in Chaminade Literary Review, Vols. 16-17, Fall 1995.

IMMEASUREABLE

The distance between truth
and belief is as small as the width
of a hydrogen atom, yet
as wide as the diameter
of a galaxy of your choice.

You say truth is relative, I
know that it can morph
in the face of circumstance
but that hardly makes
relativity a factor in truth.

You say you believe in truth,
at least as you see it,
and question those who deign
to disagree, at times ignoring
evidence they might offer.

You say none of that matters,
for when the son of God
returns, all will be revealed
and truth will be declared
evidence to the contrary
be damned

ILL SUITED

My father wanted to take
me to buy my first suit, said
he knew a tailor who could
fashion one perfect for
my pending Bar Mitzvah,
a nice wool blend, he said.

Mother about threw a fit.
“Take him to the department
store or even Goodwill,
for God’s sake, he’s only
going to wear it once.”

My father had learned
that some battles are best
left unfought, so he
compromised and we went
to the men’s shop and I wore
that sport coat three times
before outgrowing it, and
donating it to Goodwill.

VISITORS

We keep looking, some of us
certain they are there,
others as certain they are not,
as God didn’t mention them.

We hope to see them
to reach out to them
to understand them,
to learn from them.

Of course, we know
that if they are here
they are so much more
intelligent than we

and hardly likely
to announce their
presence given what
they must know about

how we behave
with immigrants
and aliens of all sorts.

BEGGAR’S TALE

I speak clearly, concisely
in an ancient, long forgotten
tongue that none understand.

I tell my tale, leaving out
nothing, a summoner
in a deaf world, whispering

of coins, pulled from
an empty pocket and cast
at your feet, soundless.

I point to signs, lettered
in my careful hand, without
meaning, cryptic to you

You urge me to trust
in your god even as
you deny me my own

who sits by the gate
wrapped in rags, waiting
to for rain to melt the pillar.

First published in Glimpse, Issue 54, Fall 2021

CANINE

The dog refuses to walk
around the house and check
the driveway, and so
the shells will rain on the village
as they do each time she senses fear.

She has a sight beyond that
I can fathom, curled under
the heat vent, as though
the cries of children carry
in her dreams, her tail
dances against the grate.

On most nights when she makes
her final trip, the automatic light
over the garage flips on
and we can all sleep peacefully
until we realize
that God has chosen
a furry surrogate, lives
resting between her paws.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

MOSES SAYS TO AARON

We sat in the tent
and you complained again
of our condition, knowing
what lies just out of reach.
He speaks to me, not you
and there is little you can do
to hide your jealousy.
I often wonder what might
have happened if I had wiped
the blood of the lamb from your lintel.
It was you who watched
the calf take shape and
did nothing, seeing it
a personal tribute, and
ordained its fashion
and for your sin
we shall be together
forgotten men
in the land of Moab.

First appeared in Live Nude Poems, July 2021
livenudepoems.com/2021/07/

WE ARE THE PEOPLE

We are the people,

Who heard the glass breaking
that night as we huddled at home,

Who inhaled the smoke
of the Holy books as they burned,

Who tried to flee but had
nowhere to go, always turned away,

Who visited cosmetic doctors
to reshape our noses to look like the others

Who adopted names to help
erase a potentially painful history to come,

Who now turn a blind eye to those
who expel others from a land we claim
is ours by divine right from a God
of all people, just as specially chosen.

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.”