ISRAEL’S JUSTIFICATION FOR THE BOMB

Once it was fur hats
men on horseback
swords and torches
our villages casting a faint glow
falling into dying embers,
here, one whose skull
bears the mark of the hoof,
there an old one
who would go no farther.

Once it was a helmet
tanks for horses
flames contained in crematoria
cities taken for the deserving
we, merely ashes
shoveled into a pit,
here a tooth, its gold
torn free and cataloged
first the old ones
who could go no farther.

And so we have learned,
we in our kippot
we in our planes
and if you do not hear we
will give you the holy fires of God
you and your villages a faint shadow
and so much vapor, so much ash
carried on his holy breath
for we have learned well
and we have fused these words
in our minds, never again.

First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

SCRIVEN

“You know,” she said with a smile,
“that you are going straight
to the infernal regions when this
is over and done with, no doubt.”
“I can’t imagine,” he replied, “that
He who is all knowing and all powerful
would ever let that happen to me.”
“Be serious,” she added, “you know that
the nether world is replete
with scriveners of doggerel, it is
their natural home when they are done here.”
“But I’m a mere bard, a weaver of tales,”
he cried, “nothing more, nothing less.”
“Ah, yes,” she smirked, “but the road
to everlasting fire is paved
with cliches and euphemisms.”


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BELIEF

He will tell you he’s agnostic,
once he would’ve set atheist, but put
to the test, he knows he couldn’t disprove
the existence of that which could not be seen.
He believes it will, must, get better eventually,
he has infinite faith that it will,
he says to anyone who will listen,
in faith is something, he notes, you
cannot ever have in overabundance.

It does not strike him in the least bit odd
that a man of no belief in God places his future
in the hands of faith, although he would tell you
he has no idea what it is, exactly, he has faith in.

DEAD OR JUST RESTING?

Some people say religion
is dead, or at least mortally wounded.
In my generation, closer
to death than puberty,
there is some truth to that thought
because God seems a whole lot less
responsive these days, our peers beginning
to fall like lemmings from the cliff.
But the young clearly have found
what has gotten so far away from us,
and they have gone so far
as to personalize God, something
we never dared do for fear of hell
for the wrath of our parents and
loss of use of the car.
Today, even in school and at the mall
their faith is on display
on their smart phone screens,
secretly genuflecting each time
they mention OMG.

NIL

I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia


It was supposed to be
the simplest of all the numbers
nestled neatly in the center
of the number line.

For years its logic
evaded our efforts
to comprehend its simplicity.
It didn’t look particularly daunting
round and symmetrical.

But it was its underlying defiance
that always plagued us.
You could easily add it
but always without effect.

You could take it away
and never know
it had left, yet try
to multiply it, for multiplication
we were told, is nothing more
than repeated addition
and your efforts came to naught.

It was insignificant
and without substance
to the point that we
gave it little mind
until we tried to divide with it
and found it grew
beyond the scope
of our imagination.

We followed it
as it would roll away
ever gaining speed
until it was swallowed
by the void.

We chased it
running ever faster
until we saw our heels
flashing across the pavement
always a step ahead.

Years later, the half drunken
professor stood leaning on the lectern
to maintain a tenuous grip
on his waning reality
asked what came before
the big bang.

It’s easy I thought,
the same as who created God
and I stayed silent
in response.

HEAVEN CAN WAIT

He said, “I’m looking forward
to heaven for a reason you cannot
begin to imagine, and, not
that I want to rush my arrival.”
She said, “It’s rather audacious
to assume you’ll end up there,
I place the odds as at best at
50-50 and I’m being generous
because I’m still in love with you.”
“But you’ll never guess the reason
so I’ll just have to tell you.
You know how much I love
rich buttery sauces, the more
butter and ] heavy cream the better?
In heaven I can have all I want
without worry about cholesterol
and arteriosclerosis and that would
certainly be heaven to me.”
“You realize,” she replied, “that
there’s a better than even chance
that God as creator of everything
might just be a vegetarian, like
we all were in the garden, so
Just in case, eat your Brussels sprouts.”

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

We have mastered the art
of making promises,
we can do so without reflection.
We are not certain why God
seems so reticent to join us,
we were created in His image,
we are constantly told, yet
even when we ask, no promises
seem to be forthcoming from heaven.
Some say God is far too busy
to make even simple promises,
for God would have to deliver on them,
without fail, something we
have never quite managed.
Others say promises were what had us
evicted from the Garden and we
still have not learned our lesson,
or so promise the priests and ministers
who assure us our place in heaven
can always be secured for eternity
by a sufficiently large donation.

THE QUESTION

If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.

IN TRANSIT

We have decided to skip the viewing
to say our farewells in thought
without needing to see her face
frozen in the morticians best attempt
at placidity, erasing the anger, the fear,
the frustration, the pain that made
leaving easier for her than remaining.
We will say the prayers, most of them,
she with fervent hope that they are heard,
I as a member of the chorus.
Some will invoke both the father and son
and spirits will be moved,
and I will reflect, will listen politely
and hope the universe is receptive
to one who is now in transit.