IF YOU BUILD IT

In the midst of this pandemic
everyone, it seems, is offering
playlists and lists of movies
to watch during the endless
days of isolation, and so long
as the internet goes on, we may
die of viral complications, yes,
but not of boredom soon.

I have aggregated the various
lists, stricken movies far too close
to home, Andromeda Strain,
Contagion, now isn’t the time
for that deep dive into irony,
and with blue pencil in hand,
I’ve written in, then crossed out
A Field of Dreams, for sitting
in the home we built, we know
those we wish would, will not
come, and dread that COVID might.

UNTO TARSHISH

In this place
there is a fatted,
sacrificial silence.
It is the large
Jewish Cemetery
nestling the road
where Maryland
and the District are loosely
stitched together.
It is a small plot
goldenrod dirt
outskirting Lisbon.

This ground is sacred
not for the blessing
of one who
has taken the tallit
of holiness.
The sanctity of this
ground leaches
from the simple pine
boxes that return
with the body
to the soil.

The stones, mostly simple
with neatly incised
Hebrew inscriptions
are all blank
to me, worn
smooth by memory
denied.

I place my ear
carefully to each, wanting
to hear a voice,
a fractured whisper
that will resonate
in the hollow spaces.

I pass by those
with shared names
for if he or she is here
each must share
the isolation
they willed me.
I look
at the faces
of passing mourners —
none resemble
the morning mirror.

I grow tired
of the search, sit
in the paltry shade
of the ricinus plant
knowing we both will
be gone by sundown.


First Appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005

ISOLATION

She wondered what it would be like
to be an island, set off somewhere
in a vast ocean, tropical preferably
where the only sounds were
the ebb and flow of the waves,
the thunder of the occasional storm
and the whisper of leaves tossed
by the omnipresent sea breezes.
she liked isolation, the silence
of repetitive sounds, free of the shackles
the city imposed on all within.
She imagined she might never tire
of the freedom and island enjoyed,
patiently waiting for the visitor
who might not ever wash up
on her beaches, she indifferent
but willing to accept what the gods
might choose to offer or deny her.

ISLAND

He feels like a rock
cast into a river
partially rising above
the water now forced
to flow around him.
It pulls at him, seems
to say you belong
in the sea, let us
carry you there, but he
can no longer move
and knows he will meet
the ocean in bits pulled off
by the jetsam of other
people’s lives as it flows
past him on this leg
of its endless journey.