HILLEL AT THE GOLDEN DRAGON

I am honored that this poem was just published in the Fall/Winter Issue of the  Atlanta Review,

I had dinner the other night
with Rav Hillel
in a small Chinese place
just off Mott Street.
I asked him what it was like
in the afterlife, after all the years.
It gets a bit boring, he said,
now that old Shammai
has lost his edge,
just last month
for each Chanukah night
he lit four candles
from the center out
in each direction.
I told him
the steamed pork buns
were beyond belief,
he said try the shrimp dumplings
even better if you eat them
standing on one foot.
I asked him how he spent his days
and he only smiled,
most days I search
for Van Gogh’s ear
though that alte cocker Shammai
says it was Theo’s ear
that Vincent lopped off,
although Vincent wore
a bandage around his head.
It’s really not so bad
he said, there’s even
a lovely sculpture
just inside the garden gate
that bears a striking resemblance
to old Lot’s wife, not that she
was ever capable
of sitting still all that long.
He bid me farewell
and though I looked
for a fiery chariot,
he climbed into
his ’91 Taurus
with the hanging bumper
and rust spots, and drove slowly off.
Thanks for dinner, he shouted,
as I footed the bill yet again.

IMPRESSIONS

I have no reason to venture to Tahiti
for Gaugin took me there years ago,
and again on a visit to Chicago and one
to New York, or was it Cleveland, it hardly
matters, for I know that the Tahiti of my
experience no longer exists, touristed
to death, itself at constant risk of drowning.

I did have reason to go to Arles, and there
searched far and wide for the sky
that Vincent promised, or the flowers,
but the few stars visible through
the lights and pollution of the city were
pale imitations of the brilliant lights I know
were there aj century ago.

Now I sit in my yard and watch
the comings and goings of
a thousand birds who deserve
to be painted and not captured merely
in pixels, for memory, human and
electronic, fades with time, while
art if not artists can be immortal.