AT FIRST

The first time
I heard it
I knew
that voice
came from a place
I had never visited,
would never
be able to go.

It penetrated me
reverberated
within me
a harmonic
that shook
me to my core.

She reached
and grasped
what I thought
I had kept hidden,
and as I danced
with my
new bride,
I knew Etta
had led me
to love
At Last.

WRONG AGAIN

As a teenager, like so
many others of our narrow
minded, obsessed gender,
I imagined myself a great lothario,
girls on the edge of womanhood
lining up for my attention.

The absurdity of that dream
was lost on me and my peers,
testosterone drowning it in a sea
of hormones, and we were oblivious
to the real obstacle always
right in front of us, that we
imagined love and sex
in the first person only.

Now that youth and even
middle age are behind me
I still try to recall when I realized
that love requires the second person
singular, and my pleasure is
complete only when
my partner’s is as well.

A PRAYER

Last night, as I sat poised
on the edge of sleep, I asked
God for continued blessings,
for I have been blessed more
than I likely deserve.

I heard Her reply that I
would always have Her love,
on earth and heaven, and I
knew my request, selfish
for certain, had been answered.

But now I wonder if it was
truly She or your voice I heard
in that moment, but I know
which voice would not matter
for you are the blessing I sought.

CELESTIAL RHYTHM

It was a certain rhythm that he loved,
one he felt it in total silence, yet it faded
in the presence of sound, a doumbek
of the soul he would describe it.

He remembered how it was before
their one god rendered him and his kind
mere mythological creatures fit only
for poetry and dusty library shelves.

He would have his revenge some day,
would condemn their God to a corner
of the heavens, an eternity to reconsider
the rashness of his narcissism, but

in the meanwhile he would continue
to rest in the heart of this constellation
hoping to go unnoticed, happy just
to listen to the rhythm of the universe.

ROAMING

It is a sign of advancing age
or increasing love and passion
that I no longer imagine
chucking it all and wandering
off of some unplanned journey.

Next flight out please, I
don’t care where it is going,
so long as I have money left
for food and some basic lodging,
no baggage besides my carry on.

Of course today that would
land me in the interrogation
room or whatever TSA
calls it these days, for I must
be a terrorist or crazy person.

So I’ll stay here, visit friends
between visits to doctors,
salve my arthritis, degenerating
spine, failing eyes, and imagine
the places I might have gone.

IMAGINE

I think it might have been
a passionate love letter
I wrote to you last week
but never delivered

although there is the remote
possibility it was just
our grocery list, both
have line breaks after all,

but it does show why
I must remember to check
the pockets of my jeans
before I put them in the washer.

So let’s agree that it was
that passionate love letter,
and you can swoon thinking
of the things you imagine I said.

THE LANGUAGE OF ZEN

The greatest problem
with our language
in the practice of zazen
can seem insurmountable.

We are lovers of tenses,
a dozen to choose from,
one spawning offspring,
time ever important to us.

In zen, on the cushion
there is no past, no future,
perfect or otherwise, nor
our friend the conditional.

We strive to always be
in the moment, there is now
and nothing else, and we
ought to strive to never be tense.

SONNET TO A PORTUGUESE

You came into my life last week, your name
forever locked away inside her mind.
My life, she felt, would never be the same
and therefore left all thought of you behind.
You loved her, I suppose, that summer night
then left her, bearing me, until she turned
me over for adoption, that she might
forget the love that you so quickly spurned.
A Jew, she said, but would say little more
a father, Portuguese, is all I know,
who cast his seed, then left and closed the door
and me, the son, he never would see grow.
You left her life long before I was born,
the father I won’t know but only mourn.

First published in Minison Project, Sonnet Collection Series, Vol. 2, Sept. 2021

STONE

Just outside town
in the old dump is
a slab of concrete
its twisted edges pierced
by rusting rebar
once the floor
of the gazebo in the commons.
Etched into its surface
Jim + Marie
Janet Loves Eddie.
Their loves were undying
cast into stone to wear
slowly through the ages
not to fall victim
to the jackhammer.
Jim lies under
the simple stone
“Sgt. U. S. Army
Served Vietnam,”
Marie left for college
but came home,
a nurse at the Community Hospital
now divorced with two daughters.
Eddied married Sue,
three times runner up
for homecoming queen
and lives in a trailer
by the county line.
Janet waits tables
in the coffee shop
at Caesar’s Palace while
her husband, whom she met
at the truck stop,
deals blackjack in the casino.
Their son lives in San Francisco
with his lover, but
they haven’t spoken to him
in more years
than they can remember.
The old gazebo was replaced
years ago by the giant
steel play gym.

First published in Green Silk Journal, Spring 2020
https://www.thegsj.com/spring-2020-.html