FIVE HAIKU

The dawn cedes slowly
to the impinging sunlight
birds greet the new day

The great egret lifts
her wings embracing the cloud
the winter sun smiles

on the barren branch
the red-shouldered hawk awaits
her mate and the sun

sandhill cranes wander
along the shore of the lake
looking for nothing

the moon is a cup
waiting for night to fill it
venus sits empty

DUSK

There is nothing like, no
words to adequately describe,
that moment when a cloud-
hazed sun lingers wishfully
just above the horizon, grasping
the sky with brilliant talons
of light, fearing becoming
lost in a darkness that will,
on this night of the new moon,
engulf us all in its inky shroud.

We know, or pray, the sun
will return in hours, just
as the sun knows its work
is never done so long as it
has light to give, hoping
that final collapse is eons away.

As it finally settles beyond
sight, we smile, retreat
to the table and consume
our dinner and wine, our
daily companion forgotten
until its dawning return.

THE ANCIENTS

Night and the ancients retreat
to a dark corner of their celestial prison
from the promised arrival
of the yellow dwarf from which
they know we demand a presence.

We ignore the ancients now,
ignore those who cast them
into their prison, ignore
the acts for which they were
banished, care only to name them,
and they know that our recognition
is their only grasp on existence.

Each day their tiny cousin
demands our full attention,
defies us to look deeply at him,
pleased that he is, for us,
the center of our universe.

LUNA PENDING

From the heart of the night
the moon appeared, or a small
crescent of it, coy this night
as she is on a regular basis.

She hinted at her fullness,
but we knew that was still
days off, the moon kept
to a rigid schedule always.

But her reticence this night
invited the stars to take
the stage, some we rarely see
whether hiding in clouds

or obscured by the moon’s
radiance, and the stars
seem pleased for this brief
moment on the celestial stage.

STARS

Once the winter stars
wrapped in their cloudy shroud
shed frozen tears, unwilling
to come out of hiding.
We searched for them in vain,
knowing our failure,
retreating to the warmth
of home, only to repeat
the failed effort on so
many other nights.

Now, here, the winter stars
are usually fearless,
some drowned by the moon,
but she waxes and wanes
and they reappear, the brightest
never fearing the chilled sky.
We stare at them in wonder
having forgotten for so many
years just how beautiful
they can be in their glory.

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.

LIONEL HAMPTON AND THE GOLDEN MEN OF JAZZ

Blue Note, pardon
our construction
black painted
plasterboard
a hanging
air conditioning duct.

Grady Tate
sneering at the skins
growling at a high hat
hands shifting
deftly reaching in
picking a beat
and sliding it
over the crowd.

Jimmy Woode
blind to the lights
slides his fingers
over strings
and talks to the bass
resting on his shoulder.
It sings back
begging , pleading
demanding as his head
sways with an inner vision.

Junior Mance
sways slowly fingers
tentative on ivory plates
crawling through the alley
scurrying for cover
and strutting down Broadway
ablaze in neon
dancing through Harlem
and sliding into the East River.

Pete Candoli
white against the night
smiles as his horn
cries out, a siren
piercing the dark
reaching up grabbing
your throat, throttling
then caressing your face
until you fall
into your seat, spent.

Harry “Sweets” Edison
wrinkled jowls suck in
the city, smooth ebony balloon
shouting from balconies
to revelers below
and mourning a love,
crying in the streets
dashing out of a basement
flat, a child crying
mother screaming in birth
a young man
groaning in orgasm.

Benny Golson
hair tied back
swaying, runs up the stairs
pauses, and leaps out
into the air
and flies off
laughing at the city
huddled below
its collar turned
against the wind
off the river.

Frank Foster
sits on the stool
and strokes
his sax, coaxing it
peering out around
a corner, slipping inside
then running down the street
dancing between taxis,
then striding down
Bourbon Street
the pall bearers
strutting behind.

Al Grey, stands
arm waving, a manic
conductor, it whispers
beckoning, then hums
droning, then slowly
it moves the fan
giving a glimpse
dragging the boa
drawing all eyes
as she passes into the wings
sticking her head out
smiling at the cheers.

Hampton leans
on the vibraphone
seeking balance,
and old man bent
from age, lost amid children.
Mallets slowly rise and fall
gaining speed
rushing out
glissando of sound
his hands flashing
the crowd rises
and there comes
silence.

First Appeared in Pointed Circle, Issue 15, 1999.

THE QUESTION

Even long after he had left
his childhood behind, or such
of it as he had actually had,
he could still stare up into
the night sky, at ceiling of stars
with more than a little awe.

And even though he had left
childhood behind, no one
had yet answered the one
question his parents ducked
time and time again, one
so simple a child knew
its answer, but asked anyway,
for validation or irritation.

If God created the heavens
why did He or She arrange
the stars so that people
could see in their order
other people, lesser gods
and all manner of animals?

THE LOBBY BAR AT MIDNIGHT

Ann Arbor a certain diffidence
Butte born of three rum Collins
Carmel the Gucci show windows
Duluth darkened, foreboding
Erie escalator rattle
Fairbanks a sound coffin
Grapevine grand piano
Hilo the restaurant empty
Ithaca seeking diners
Jacksonville by the exit signs
Kalamazoo conventioneers drool
Lincoln and slobber
Memphis over the ankh necklace
Natchez girl cross legged
Oakland engulfed in smoke
Providence the ficus droops
Rehoboth in the shade of the bar
Salem laughter turning
Toledo into controlled sobs
Urbana highball glass slips
Vidalia off the table edge
Wausau and falls
Xenia dropping slowly
Yuma through the night
Zanesville into sleep.

ALIVE IN THE NIGHT

I walked the city
in the heart of the night,
street lights casting the shadows
of ghosts of those long gone
to bed, unknowing
that the city has been
given over to ravening winds
that find no shelter.

I step into an alcove
and the fading light
of the flickering bulb overhead
urges me to move on
lest she bury me
in the darkness of her grave.

By day, this will all
be gone into hiding,
finding shelter we cannot see
and we forget that
when night again returns
the ghosts will dance
wildly in these streets.