UNDER THE WEIGHT

My shelves grow heavy
with volumes of words
I wish I had written, neatly
bound up in books
that stare at me, at once
bidding me welcome
and challenging me to enter.
One shelf is set aside
for books of pages,
blank, on which I have written
each day now for three
and a half years, words
I did write which, on rereading,
I often wish I hadn’t.
I could write in pencil
erase later in the face of regret,
but the pen seals failure
and, I am sure, helps build
character, which I have in excess

TO ALLEN

Tell me more about death, I said
put it into words, that’s
your specialty so open your mouth
from amid your black jungle of a beard
now white, I want a noise, a howl.
Why the hell do I hear only silence,
I know it’s the sound
of one hand clapping,
but I demand more than a mere koan
Corso would at least bathe me in gasoline
but you, who wrote to be immortal
so why, now, only old words?
So I can complete the circle?
But they hit the floor like
so may peanut shells
washed by the spilt beer.
Come on, say something
even a simple kaddish
for your silence is killing me.

WORDS

“Suppose,” he says
“words may be used
only once, after that
they disappear.”
“You mean in a poem”
she replies, “or life itself?”
Even four stanzas
can challenge most
except perhaps Basho.
Haiku would replace sonnets,
villanelles, sestinas
suddenly gone,
anaphora is self-contradiction.
“Imagine,” the young girl mused
“sloganless politicians,
talking heads struck mute,
hushed generals
fighting silent wars,
all poets condemned
to write blank verse.”

AN INKLING

Writing is an art form
that very many never see
but the unseeing of the work
is what elevates it to art.
This is what you often hear
from the unpublished, or even
from the denizens of small
press purgatory, the one
the Vatican will never acknowledge,
for the poets corner of heaven
is so deeply hidden away.
The words on the page
know better, they see the beauty
as they tumble from the pen,
and need no confirmation.

ANOTHER GHETTO

She sits
in the bookstore cafe
her head covered
by a linen kerchief
bobby pinned to the
mass of walnut curls.
She cradles the cup
of cooling coffee
and stares down
at the slim book
of Amichai, yielding
to the Hebrew letters
that seem to dance
across the page.
I sit at the adjoining table
with my used
copy of Bialik, translated.
I glance at her
“I’ll miss him”
with a nod to Amichai
then “where are you from?”
She shifts
in her seat, legs
crossing, pulling back
staring over
my shoulder at
the slowly spinning fan,
then at the book.
I look for her eyes
but they dance away,
my hands clasp
and                  unclasp,
fingers drum on the table.
She mutters,
“Atlanta.”
“What part?”
“Warsaw, inside
the walls and wire,
that place
from which so few of us ever
manage to escape.”

TREACHERY

René Magritte was born and died
in Belgium, neither happened
on this day, but he painted
a most realistic picture of a pipe,
which he captioned “Ceci N’est Pas
Une Pipe,” which of course it was not
since it was only a picture of a pipe
and he entitled the work
The Treachery of Images.
This brings to mind a question:
if I say, Ceci est une poeme,
is that true, or am I engaging
in a mere treachery of words?
Draw me a picture of your answer,
if you would be so kind.

ERATO’S NIGHTMARE

That one summer
I worked in the plant
I could hear them whisper
in the break room,
with its always empty
Coke machine.
They’d get real quiet
when I came in
some would nod a hello
and quickly leave.
At first I thought
it was because I
was only there
for the summer,
but once, standing silently
outside the break room door,
I heard them talking
about the weirdo
who read fag poems
when no one was looking,
how he was probably
some sort of queer closet pinko.
I tucked my copy
of “Gasoline” in my back pocket
and wandered back
to my workstation, wondering
if Corso put
up with this bullshit.