RIDING THE WASTELAND

We set out with bold ambition,
egos saddled and reined
across a landscape left barren
by our leaders who saw
only carefully stacked boards
and beams awaiting the master
carpenter, great floral sprays
dotting the lobbies of glass
and chrome edifices, created
in their own images.
We ride in search of
the promised land, and turn
a deaf ear to the windwalkers,
to the spirits of the children
sitting in the packed dirt streets
their bellies distended, crying
out for food, for justice
as the warlords sit in their cars
surveying the invisible parapets
of their armed fortresses.
We look quickly away
from the chindi of the young men
who rise from the neatly heaped soil
of the common burial mound, who
rise up in neat array and perch
on the edge of the freshly dug pit
waiting for the rat-a-tat rain
of death they know await them
unrepentant, unwilling to curse
Allah, bidding farewell to Tuzla.
We pause to chant the blessing way
but we have forgotten the words,
Arbeit Macht Frei, the gates
reduced to rust, the chimneys
no longer belching the sweet
smell of death into the winter morning.
We ride on oblivious to the faint glow
from the craters we have torn
into the earth, of the clouds
that only vaguely recall
the mushrooms of our progress.
We ride toward the horizon
where the great pillars of gold
and silver rise up, glinting in the sun
that once warmed them before
we cast them out into the desert
of our lust and craving.
We set out with bold ambition
but our horses have grown tired,
our canteens are empty
and the inferno threatens
to consume us.


First Appeared in Alchemy, Issue 2, Fall-Winter 1999.

FARE WELL OR FAREWELL

The sun has slipped back
into its familiar failure mode
lighting the sky, seeming
to set the trees aflame, but
offering precious little warmth.
It is just practice for the season
we all know is lurking just beyond
the horizon, beyond our too short sight.
We hope not to be here to greet it,
having fled south, escaped to a place
where the sun maintains purpose,
where it says lakes and ponds ablaze
and we shield our eyes from
its intense, overpowering presence.

AT THE MARGINS

Horizons are the thing
we have they greatest trouble with.
They are omnipresent, immutable
and yet move at our approach.
They are at once inviting
and fear inducing, though now
we are largely convinced they
do not mark the edge of a precipice
over which we would catapult
into some endless abyss
crossing their margin.
As we age we are allowed nearer
and they see less foreboding
though we struggle to keep eyes open
knowing that too soon enough
we will close them finally
and step across into the abyss.

SEA-ING

He believes he would like the ocean,
imagines standing on the shore watching
as the waves wash up to his feet,
and as quickly retreat, smoothing the sand.
He has never seen the ocean, only
ponds and on large lake, but he
imagines the ocean is just
a giant lake with bigger waves.
He would like to see the fog
roll in erasing the horizon,
shrouding the seas in a deeper mystery.
He recalls standing in the bar
of the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo
late one night as the fog settled
over the city, and only the lights
of the tallest buildings
seemed afloat on endless sea.

A SIMPLE QUESTION

A woman walks up to me and asks,
“can you juggle the salt and pepper shakers?”
but I know what she really wants
is for me to bind her wounds
and drag the sun quickly from the horizon.
I pick up two apples and a plum
but the plum falls to the floor and rolls
under a distant chair.
“It won’t taste nearly as good,” she says
“unless I wash it in my tears
for my long dead mother. “
I take a pinch of salt
and toss the crystals into the air
but they flash between my fingers.
She curls on the floor,
and sinks into sleep.
I take the pepper shaker
and put it in my jacket pocket,
nestled against the dripping plum.