UNCLE

My uncle writes his journal
in cramped Yiddish, English
will not do, it lacks the words
he says, to describe his world.

He describes the flavor
of the capon left to stew
on the stove, the sweet taste
of carrots and prunes.

He carefully notes the thumb
of the butcher sliding onto
the back of the scale, applying
just a dollar of pressure.

He writes pages of her
monologue, the slow twisting
of words stuck under his skin
like so many shoots of bamboo.

The language is sweet, he says
and when it is lacking, he
can reach into its roots
and graft a new word.

His journal sits on its shelf
gathering dust, its words
lost on my tongue, a tome
consigned to history.

First Appeared in Cold Mountain Review, Vol. 25, No. 1, Fall 1996.

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 FIRST JEW ON MARS

The first Jew on Mars

sifts the red sands through gloved fingers
and kicks the small stone,
glares up at the heavens
the cold sun returning his stare
and waits patiently
for the rain of manna.

looks vacantly across the landscape
and curses under his breath
at the absence of a good
lean pastrami and a half sour,
or even Chinese take out.

pauses to wonder why God
left so much unfinished,
an endless desert to be wandered
for countless lifetimes,
no further tablets forthcoming —
perhaps He was tired, needed rest —
each day is Sabbath.

struggles to remember
the smoke rising from the chimneys,
the souls of a generation
whispering “do not forget us.”

shouts the Shema
to the void, imagining
it is falling on deaf ears.


First appeared in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, (2008).

TUESDAYS ONLY

Everything important, he declared,
should happen on a Tuesday.
Wednesday, he explained, was saddled
with a deep burden of middleness,
rendering it unfit for much else.
Friday simply couldn’t be trusted,
since five o’clock everywhere came earlier
and earlier each year it seemed.
The weekend was for battling Sabbaths
and there would be no winners there,
merely heavenly losers.
Mondays were out since so many
were halfway along in it before
they were willing to admit
that it had begun, and Thursday,
well, what can you say about Thursday
that hasn’t been written
and said far too many time already.