ONE DAY

We stood trapped between
slack-jawed and reverent
looking at the woman sitting
cross-legged outside the doorway
lovingly fashioning a pot,
her gnarled fingers gentle
on the yielding clay.

Others this day fashioned
rings and pendants
simple tools on silver
and one of a kind treasures
they would lay out
on blankets hoping we
would want more
than just a photograph.

Our day on the Taos Pueblo
ended too early, its
memories lingering
a lifetime.

HEY TEACH

She is long departed I imagine,
and she would have had no
memory of me given the number
who passed through her room
in the decades she stood imparting
the sort of knowledge that was
somehow tucked away, not
forgotten, for it bubbled forth
years later, the aha moment.

I could not forget her, why
perhaps she was a key 
to my passwords, the first
question you have to answer
to reset a site, to reset your life,
“Who was your most memorable
teacher?” and it was she among
all the others without doubt.

OF DREAMS

I am now of an age
where I can no longer remember
what terrors gripped my sons
in their dreams, causing them
to appear beneath our blankets,
I relegated to the bed’s edge.

Perhaps there were none
and I was destined to be
an edge sleeper, the boys
taking advantage as a joke
played out night after night.

I know what dreams now
can rip me from sleep, a
chill beyond that of the A/C
running down my spine like
nightmare sciatica, until I banish
the dream and wait to see
what its replacement offers.

THE WALL

The wall is black granite,

highly polished be an unseen hand

and the fingers of countless thousands

present but each unseen by the others.

At first glance you want to count

the names, but you lack fingers

enough for the task and others

are quickly withdrawn as are their eyes.

You know where the names are,

Willy, who they now call William,

Little Joey, who was so large in your

memory, climbing into the cockpit.

You wonder if things had been different,

if you hadn’t enlisted, chosen

the Air Force, if the Draft Board

anointed you cannon fodder, who

would trace their fingers along

the cold unfeeling stone that has

been washed by untold tears bidding

you farewell or thanks, rarely both.

We have grown so good at wars

we no longer need etched walls,

bronze statues, for before a design

is complete, the next must be begun.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

CONVERSATION

Arising into night
the departing sun
tangoes away with its cloud,
memories soon forgotten.
Other dancers take the stage,
now a romance, now
a war dance, feathers raised
in prayer to unseen gods.
Night will soon bring
its curtain across this stage,
the avian cast’s final bows taken
the theatre will darken, awaiting
another performance,
a new script tomorrow,
but for this solitary moment
of frozen grace, it is we
who write the conversation,
our lines sung by actors who
know only nature’s
unrelenting song.

BLESSED

Barchu, for the slugs of the Chinese
knockoff AK47 which tore
through his legs, twisting
to avoid the artery and nerves.

Barchu, for the moon hanging
in the frosted night
seeking shelter in the mist
cutting into me, lashing me
to reality.

Barchu, for their memory
the small circle of candles
that burn eternally
in the rain.

Barchu, for the sleep
that slides over him
and sets him free
if only for an hour.

Barchu, for the evening
and the morning,
another day.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

NO BACKS

As you age, your vision changes,
and not merely that of your eyes,
for you necessarily become
near sighted about many things.

Of course you dread the fact that you
could be myopic if circumstances
conspire against you, barely able
to be IN and remember the moment.

Even those healthy take to mythology,
and astronomy, wishing they were
Titan, living life in retrograde, but no one
has yet managed to become Benjamin Button.

TRIPTYCH

A triptych hangs in the gallery of memory. Admission is by invitation only.

The first panel is a time fogged mirror into which I stare. The adopted image hides behind the tarnished silver. My adopted mother’s voice is heard from a hidden speaker: “You were named after my father.” I want to tape his picture to the glass, a face to share the empty space. She has no pictures, she says, he never liked being photographed, said it would steal his soul. She can barely remember him: “He died when I was five.” I ask questions. I need to know more about the giver of names. She falls silent, drawing in, secreting memory.

In the second panel a woman sits, fidgeting. She is a striking blond. I cannot see her as being sixty-one, though she is. I deny that I am fifty. As the Rabbis climb the few steps to the Bimah, she leans over. “You know,” Lois says, “just like you, I was named for your grandfather. She talks freely of herbalism, life in New York, places she wants someday to see. “It’s funny,” she whispers, “I’ve never seen a picture of him; like he had some kind of phobia of being photographed.” Outside the Temple she stands with my mother and sister, arms interlocked, embracing both. I snap the picture. I am not captured on the film. Lois and I drive back to my mother’s apartment, stopping at one of the unending lights on Wisconsin Avenue. She touches my hand: “You know there was one more person named after him, your other sister.” The light changes.

There is only a picture hook in the wall — not even the faint outline that marks the space from which a picture is removed, the wall beneath unbleached by the sun. Lisa, my my sister, like me adopted and as quickly withdrawn, left no outward marks. She is a footnote in my father’s obituary. She is cast off by family, an unmentionable. She is my mother’s deeply hidden scar.

I am repeatedly drawn into this room. It’s walls never change, the pictures periodically replaced. I need to visit, to assure myself of — what? Someday, too soon, this exhibit will close.

First appeared in Pitkin in Progress, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2002)

THE WAVES

We, so far out at sea,
see only the waves passing,
the rise and fall, the rhythm,
and cannot imagine
it could be otherwise,

You, on the shore
cannot perceive the waves
we do, torn by the reef
that leaves you only
imagining what you think
the waves might be.

We cannot imagine
the silence, the isolation
you must feel in your
waveless world with
only memory of voices
to shape the shards
of sounds you hear.