WALKING

Today was downright exhausting,
and my hour long walk along the river
left me dripping and drooping.
It wasn’t different than most days,
same time, same place, and
the usual 756 miles, according
to my old friend Orion, who
was watching from his usual perch,
unseen, as he prefers it by day.
When I was done, I started to complain
about how I felt, when Orion interjected,
“Just be thankful you’re not
in Florida today, its hotter by far,
and your usual walk would
have covered a full 930 miles today,
and there you’d have reason
perhaps to complain just a bit.”
Heading home to shower, I
called out to Orion, “You know
you are one heavenly pain in the ass.”
“Yeah,” he replied, “that’s what Artemis said.”

DIMENSIONS

It is far less a matter of space
for we have that in profusion
if mostly always beyond reach, but
unnecessary anyway given our pervasive
fear of being alone while always trying
to define our particular uniqueness.
The universe has a vastness we
can never hope to grasp and so
we turn inward, where space is constrained,
and we can imagine impenetrable borders
that exist solely within the mind.
But the dimension that gives rise
to fear and loathing is time, for it
despite its vastness, is always finite
and always, in our deluded eyes
shrinking as the universe expands,
and we know there is a point
when time becomes a deathly singularity.

CHECKOUT LINE

Time seems frozen in the checkout line
stuck between the Mars bars
and the tabloids, you wonder
how Liz could survive a total body
liposuction, and further details of how
OJ killed in a moment of lust.
The old woman in front rummages
in her change purse certain she has
the eighty seven cents, the coins
lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair.
Two aisles over the young mother
her jaw clenched in frustration
keeps putting the life savers back
on the shelf as her child, fidgeting
in the cart grabs another roll, until
she shouts and slaps his hand.
His cry draws stares from all and she
stares at the floor as he grabs
a Three Musketeers and Certs.
A man in the express line swears
that the apples were marked 89 cents
and wants to see the manager
who calmly explains that Granny Smiths
are a dollar twenty nine and only small
Macintoshes are on sale this week.
He puts the bag on the scale
and stalks out of the store.
I would shift to the express lane
but I have 16 items and must
continue to wait and wonder
how many incisions it would take
for a full body liposuction.


Previously appeared in Kimera: A Journal of Fine Writing, Vol. 3, No.2, 1998 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008

SAYING, NO PLEASE

“Every once in a while,” he says
and the screeching in my head
drowns out what follows. I know
what he means of course, that is
the easy part, but the gulf between
meaning and saying is so broad
I can stop and count the traffic
of ideas floating by, each seeking
its own purchase, each finding none.
It could be worse, I know, he
could have said “each and every
once in a while, and he does that
as well, though not in a while,” 
but even the once was enough.
I notice he is gone, and I wonder
how much life flowed by
while I was otherwise engaged.

ELEMENTAL, MY DEAR

In the elemental scheme of things
we humans are, at best, middling.
We are minute in the scale of the universe,
our time not even a glimmer, and
as we age, time contracts, but only
in the shortening forward direction.
But pity the poor hydrogen-7 isotope
whose life is likely over
in 30 yactoseconds, absorbing
the laughter of helium-5 living
on average, 33 times longer, and both
jealously, if ever so quickly
regarding our seemingly infinite span.
But lest we get complacent, there is
always zirconium-96 for whom
our life is but the blink of an eye,
barely worth noting, a second at most
in a span that could reach
twenty quintillion years, so we
are nothing special, save in our own eyes.

COSMOLOGY

Our purpose is to understand
and then explain
the order of the Universe:
the logic of the neat array of stars
from our centrally located
observation deck, the galaxies
as so many fractals seeking
to hide their organization.
We have no ability to control
and lack the mechanisms
to make all but the most minute
adjustments and then as if
to energize a stray electron
into a higher energy state.
We would like to foretell
but we have no essential premise
on which to erect our framework
just a cornerstone unwilling
to settle in place or time.
We can only recount
what we have learned
cautious that we miss
only events of lesser importance
even if they are prehistory
long before they occur.
Before the beginning
was the beginning.


Published in the May 2004 issue of Vent

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