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.

CURFEW

We sat in the cramped kitchen
huddled around the stove
the open oven door spreading
a faint warmth that barely
slid through the winter chill.
The bare bulb in the ceiling
strained and flickered
fighting to hold as the generators
were shut down, and darkness
enveloped our small world.
The sky was lit by the flares
and the odor of exploding shells
seeped through the towel
sealed windows covered
in the tattered bedsheets
too thin to afford warmth.
Ibrahim had been gone two weeks
sneaking out of the city
to join his brothers in Gorazde
or Tuzla, or wherever it was
that they were struggling
to save what little was left.
We huddled under the small table
and dreamed of the taste
of fresh bread, or even pork.
In the morning he would run
among the craters in the streets
in search of the convoy
and the handouts, which we
would raven as the sun set
over our war torn hell.

First published in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. XXX, No. 1 & 2, 2006

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.

CLOSE ENOUGH TO HEAR

We sit around the small tables
glad to be out of the sun
whose midday glare seems
to blind the drivers slowly
approaching the Jetty Park lot.

A family chatters, the children
laughing at nothing, at everything,
and nearby a dog lays out
dreaming of a good walk
and dinner, hoping for scraps.

We can hear the water
of the inlet, the waves breaking
onto the beach, visuals left
to our imaginations, but we
are satisfied with that, and
the fact that our tacos here
are far more reasonable with the
“without the view” discount.

NOT YET

The man walked into the old diner
looking not at all happy,
dressed in what looked like
a white robe he found in some alley.

He ordered coffee and glanced
around, as if seeking one
familiar face, finding many
that looked like that

of his father, like him,
for that matter, and he knew
from this quick glance that
they were not yet ready,

not even close really, but he
had tried to tell Him that,
not that He listened, so the man
left some change on the table

walked out into the night,
and prepared to return home,
certain this visit, like the others
would never be deemed

a second coming.

LINKAGE

Linking things is a human need,
tenuous forces barely holding
across synapses easily broken
or lost, never to be replaced.

Ithaca is forever joined with
Galway City, and I still have not
figured out how to get the two
people together as together is
obviously what they should be.

She sits at a small table
in the Commons, staring, waiting
perhaps for a writer or lover
who may be both, to come down
from Cornell and join her,
while Oscar waits patiently
on a marble bench, hat by his side,
telling Eduard of the woman
he expects to arrive, trying
to determine how to tell her
that her friendship means
everything, but it can be
nothing more than platonic.

In my world they meet, she
listens, fights back tears
and promises always to be there,
friends frozen in time and bronze.

CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

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

DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

THE ROOM

It was a strange room,
that much I recall, with heavy
velvet curtains covering
what should have been a window, 
and might once have been, but no longer. 

The only light was a bare bulb
in the ceiling, casting 
a soft amber wash across 
the time worn oak floor,
and once white walls.

There was a chair, nondescript
and now long forgotten
and a small metal table, once
gray its paint flaking, its surface
mottled and uneven.

Still, I sat in that room
for an hour each day, staring
at the walls, and looking deeply
within, and finding both empty,
have never returned there.

SIPPING

I spent much of the afternoon trying
to imagine you, spending a small part
of an afternoon reading this poem.

I have no clear picture of where you are,
but the chair is well cushioned, and
you sit deeply in it, a glass of some

amber liquid on the glass and metal
end table, just within arm’s reach.
I suppose, since it is early afternoon,

it is iced tea, bit I wish it were a fine
IPA or better still a fine single malt,
though that much would give my poem

a meaning I never imagined, but
that might be an improvement, and
I think I’ll stop here and join you.