SABBATH

Fourth floor, Antwerp Hilton,
night encasing the Schelde,
ragout of boar and claret
slowly regurgitating, I pause
ancient words, stutteringly said,
hand on my head a shoddy cover
two parts of eight fully remembered
one section only in part,
turning East or a best guess.
I ask nothing, or perhaps too much
it is hard to know, CNN International
offers no clue, no guidance,
head bowed, knees bent
the carpet has a burn hole,
Ani, I am, I do hear
I always hear, now rest
and share my peace.


First Appeared in Oasis: A Literary Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 2, October-December 1997.

THE RABBI

The old man peers at the yellowing book
then places it on the arm of the chair.
He gives the walker a sad, angry look,
and still struggling, looks up in mocking prayer.
Clutching the book, he limps to the table
and sinks onto the chair, risking a fall
that could reshatter his hip. Unable
to hear, he shouts to his wife, down the hall,
who brings the hearing aid and his glasses.
His eyes glow as the ancient words bring fire
to his voice, arms dance as though his class is
full of young minds that are his to inspire.
He settles into the chair, bent by age
and curses his body, now more a cage.


First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008)

METASTASIS

She could barely move her head
the cancer climbed her spine
reaching upward, clutching vertebrae
reaching out, tendrils grasping
tearing fragile organs.
She would cry, but that would be
an admission of defeat,
a welcome to death.

I cried out for her,
entreated our God
for compassion
that she might stand by her sons
when they uttered the ancient words,
by her daughter, adjusting
the white lace veil,
but he would not answer,
drawn into catatonia, seeing
severed limbs of children
littering the streets of Sarajevo.

She clings tenuously to life
as I cling tenuously to faith.


First appeared in Community of Poets Magazine Vol. 21,, 1999 and later in 
Legal Studies Forum 30:1-2, 2006

PRAYER

We bow our heads
and utter words
not to the cicada
speaking through
a spring night
or the beetle
crawling slowly
across the leaf
searching for the edge.
We bid the crow
silent, the cat mewling
his hunger, just
to crawl under a porch
awaiting morning,
the child to sleep.
The stream flows
slowly by, carrying
a blade of grass
and the early fallen leaf.


First appeared in Albatross, Issue 13, (2001)

PUEBLO CHRISTMAS

The night is that bitter cold
that slices easily through
nylon and Polartec, makes
child’s play of fleece and denim.
The small rooms glow
in the dim radiance of propane lights
and heaters as the silver
is carefully packed away
in plastic tool boxes.
The pinyon wood is neatly stacked
in forty pyres, some little taller
than the white children
clinging to their parents’ legs,
some reaching twenty-five feet,
frozen sentinels against
the star gorged sky.
The fires are slowly lighted
from the top, the green wood
slowly creeps to flame
as its sap drips fire
until the pile is consumed.
Half frozen we step away
from the sudden oven heat.
The smoke climbs
obliterating the stars
as the procession snakes
from the small, adobe church,
the men at its head firing rifles
into the scowling smoke cloud.
A sheet is draped over the four poles
a chupah over the statue of the Virgin Mother
remarried to her people.
She weaves through the crowd,
gringos, Indians, looking
always upward, beyond the smoke
the clouds against which it nestles,
beyond all, for another
faint glimpse of her Son.

IN TRANSIT

We have decided to skip the viewing
to say our farewells in thought
without needing to see her face
frozen in the morticians best attempt
at placidity, erasing the anger, the fear,
the frustration, the pain that made
leaving easier for her than remaining.
We will say the prayers, most of them,
she with fervent hope that they are heard,
I as a member of the chorus.
Some will invoke both the father and son
and spirits will be moved,
and I will reflect, will listen politely
and hope the universe is receptive
to one who is now in transit.

A MORNING PRAYER

My words are carried
on the winter morning wind

echoing off the obsidian mound
and shattering in silver crystals

reflecting the frigid sun.
The barren moon recedes

as my son, the wolf, ravens
devouring knowledge of the world,

listening to the song of the dolphin.
She is a rose, soft petals fluttering

thorns poised to punish a misstep,
dangerous beauty.

He wears the feathers of the owl
staring into the night

fixing stars in their courses
holding gaseous orbs.

He sings to the bear
carrying the world
into its glacial den.


First appeared in Active Muse, Varsha 2019 issue.

WE BOW OUR HEADS

Today’s prayer
shall be recited in silence
total, not even the breath
indicating a longing for action.
Nor will it invoke
a holy spirit without us
for it is we
we must inveigh
to attain the desired
actions for which we seek
holy intervention, casting off
free will, an accreting
poor decisions, a goat
where where seek scape
and atonement
for the sins of all the others.
Today’s prayer
shall not be recited at all,
but it is this prayer
in which we find absolution.

EARLY ARRIVAL

Autumn came on hard today
the drop in temperature not
unexpected in these climes, but still
unwanted, forcing the closing of windows.
Still, as the afternoon faded, I shouted
toward the window a reminder
not to go gently into night to fight
the soon approaching dark.
The squirrel on the lawn outside
the window stood, forepaws held
together as if deep in prayer and stared
back at me, seemingly incredulous,
so I loudly repeated my entreaty.
He shook both head and tail, then said,
“For God’s sake man, if you want
to be the next Dylan Thomas have
several more drinks, and please
next time try and get the lines right!”
He turned and headed up the old maple.

MIRACLES

If you ask, she says,
you take away the chance
of ever getting a miracle.
If you ask and it happens
you reduce it to a simple
prayer answered, no matter
how surprising the outcome.
You don’t see, he said
it’s not the final act
that is the miracle,
it’s that it actually happens
to someone presumptuous enough
to believe themselves deserving.