ON THE MESA

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
clouds building mountains
that threaten to eat the sun,
swallow the moon whole.

On the mesa you can step outside
and feel incredibly small,
listen to the coyotes with
the ears of scared children,
unable to run like the jackrabbit.

On the mesa you can step outside
and look up at the sky,
more stars than are possible,
and listen as the wind
whispers in the voice of God.

ARIA

After years of embarrassment
I have finally come into the light.
It isn’t that my writing has improved,
although I surmise that would
be a narrow space to fill,
or that I can now draw things
that were once stick people
and animals and things.

What has improved, and
improved significantly
is my singing voice, once
a three note range, and one
not known to music,
but now I carry complex
tunes to near perfection.

If you ask how this
is possible, I will let
you in on a secret, it is
all in the audience,
and mine is now limited
to those stone deaf.

TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT

I am there, a classroom,
elementary or middle school,
Charleston, West Virginia
1930’s, girls in proper skirts,
saddle shoes, the old woman
at the front of the room,
first day of a new year.

“Jones”, a hand goes up,
“Murphy”, another rises slowly,
“Padlibsky, what kind
of name is that, Jew, or
some kind or Ruskie maybe?”
A small voice answers
Lithuanian, ma’am.

A scene that never
happened, a name changed
so that day the teacher
called out “Wells”
and she smiled and
quickly raised her hand.

First Published in Culture & Identity, Vol. 2, The Poet (2022)

SOTTO VOCE

For reasons I cannot determine
the cat sings to us each morning
at 4 A.M. and why I am awake
to hear her songs is also
somthing I cannot determine.

She has a sweet voice and
she does know several tunes
but when I do get up
two hours later, she refuses
to tell me what the lyrics were.

I suppose one morning
at 4 A.M. I will have to join her,
and listen to her carefully,
but I fear she will demand I
join and I cannot carry a tune.

FOR RAIN

The clouds build slowly, turning the sky from blue to ever darkening shades of gray. He hopes it will rain, rain heavily, as the ground is parched, the wetland a bog, and the birds have moved on in search of water. He watches the build up, the clouds accreting, and he waits for the first drop of water. The clouds begin to dissipate, the sun peeks through widening gaps, and the sky is soon blue again. And in the distance he thinks he hears a voice whispering “you know mother nature is a cranky old broad, right?”

TECHNICAL SERVICE

At some point in each call
to a customer service representative,
or worse still technical assistance
which is a painful oxymoron
in and of itself, I pause and wonder
how the conversation might go
if I could reach through
the ether of the phone
and grab the script.
Would the voice on the other end
suddenly become attached
to a person, ripped
from its computer home?
Would that person engage
in pleasantries for a bit
before telling me that I should
go to the website where
I will inevitably learn that
there is nothing they can
or will do for me? And why
is a call to my local doctor
garbled, but my computer
voice in India is crisp, clear
if never fully intelligible?

OF DREAMS

Last night in my sleep
I though I heard an angel
althougn I could not, for trying,
understand what it was saying,
and it is odd since I
do not believe in angels.

Perhaps it was the cat,
but if so she has come up
with a new voice, using words
not formerly in her vocabulary,
but you put nothing
past a cat, ever.

I did ask the cat if she
had called out during the night
but she said it was not her,
and she wondered who
was in my room singing
in voice far sweeter than mine.

A VISIT

I’ve always imagined that one of these nights
I’d see my mother’s ghost. I would welcome the sight
welcome she that bore me, not she that stepped in
in a way,absolving my birth mother of her sin,
while assuming adopting me would make her complete.

She hasn’t visited yet, neither has done so,
but I hold out hope, it is after all the last to go,
and I do hear her voice, faint and all too distant,
sounding very much like my own one instant
and then no more than a faint whisper in retreat.

I don’t need a long conversation, a few words would
more than suffice, but some at least, a child should
in advancing age hear the sound of a mother’s voice,
if only to find solace in the fact that her choice
to yield the child was made from love not defeat.

PAYING HOMAGE

No one thinks it all that strange
that novels featuring James Bond
appeared well after Ian Fleming
again made acquaintance with the soil.

Nor are we shocked that Conan Doyle
has seemingly taken up pen again
and brought Holmes back to life,
although many find those efforts regrettable.

And yet when I take pen to paper
and cast line upon line of verse
upon the page, weaving intricate rhymes
and couplets of fine iambic pentameter,

I am called a fool or a charlatan for claiming
my work is merely a continuation of
Milton, Eliot and old William Butler Yeats
but homage is a tough game and I’m up to it,

and I toil away wondering just who
will strive to continue my tales when,
as draws ever closer to my chagrin,
I join the masters as further food for worms.

3 TANKA

Antphonal songs
Mockingbirds greet the morning
Great Blue Herons stare
imagining their voices
night sweetly welcome the dawn
The great temple bell
awaits the morning, the monk,
its daily purpose
cast deep within the metal
always verging on release

Smoke of incense too
prostrates itself to Buddha
soon a morning breeze
promises enlightenment
or the freedom of the sky