June 13, 1896, Prague a warm day, old stone schul you stood before the minyon wearing the skullcap repeating ancient words that lay on paper, rehearsed sounding false on a tongue swollen in anxiety. Your tallit, white woven with blue threads hung at your knees fringe fingered, rolled and unrolled, twisted until touched to skin words inscribed, etched into collective memory. Seventeen years later sitting with Buber did words come back and stick on your tongue and later still when you studied under Bentovim, did words take form, shape, dredging up a past kept suppressed walking in desert heat knowing salvation was down a hill, entry forbidden. Lying in your bed in Hoffman’s Sanitorium, the trees of Kierling blooming did you recite Kaddish as endless night engulfed you.
First published in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008) and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 32, No. 1 (2008)
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It has a certain heft that says something substantial lies within, waiting to be freed. It glides easily, suggesting an effortlessness you know is a tease, that labor still waits. Still, it does said comfortably, is appealing to the eye, has the deep jade green along its barrel, the knots interwoven top and bottom that say what lies within cannot be easily unraveled. As you draw it across the page you hope that somewhere in Neamh old Robbie will look down on you, smile and share a thought or two, but that you know, is for another day.
It has taken 67 years, but I have finally arrived at what I want to do and be when I finally grow up, which should happen any day now, but please don’t hold your breath.
In this modern age, there is an ever present and growing need for euphemists, and I am perfectly suited for it.
Just this month I could have offered social distancing, not to mention those who now must shelter in place everywhere, and I’m working on several more, though I may no longer have time on my hands, lest I somehow become
collateral damage, for I know if I did I’d have to immediately wash them.
George Harrison said that if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there, and on reflection it was obvious he was correct.. Today, rising from the cushion, the four vows recited, Buddha put back on his small altar, Harrison’s words echoed loudly for he understood in a moment what it has taken me years to grasp, for all roads lead to enlightenment if you simply stop searching for it. Somewhere the spirit of our departed George was laughing with me
in this moment.
(for Allen Ginsburg) You died quietly in your bed friends gathered around the cars and buses of the city clattering out a Kaddish to a God you had long ago dismissed as irrelevant. We would have expected your to howl, to decry the unfairness of it all, but you merely said it is time, and slipped away. Who gave you the right to depart without leaving us one last remonstration against the insanity that surrounds us, one last censure of the fools who we have so blindly chosen to lead a generation into a hell of our creation. You had your peace but what of us left behind, what can we look forward to in your absence save the words we know so well, can recite by heart that no longer beats in your breast.
First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2, 2006
Tomorrow this poem will most assuredly no lnger be here, though when during the night it will slip away, never again to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it will return in a form I would not recognize, re-crafted by the hand of an unseen editor.
It may take on a meaning unfamiliar, or translate itself into a tongue that I can neither speak nor read, or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume the shape of prose, accreting words until the embedded thought is bloated and wholly unrecognizable.
Even if I tried to stop it, watched carefully, it would no doubt remind me that poems have a life of their own once cast to paper or pixels, and I am at best only another editor or reader, and it takes kindly on most days to neither.
They walk slowly, each step measured as to both length and cadence. The need not speak, they have long been synchronous, now cannot avoid being so without great effort.
They say nothing, words have grown superfluous, and would only interrupt the slow procession of the clouds, the ducks swimming against the river’s flow, the birds playing tag, each claiming to be it in turn. Each day they turn together, at different spots along the river walk, and return home, amazed at all that is different on the journey back.
forty-three years I’ve searched for my voice a whisper cracked hoarse one moment fluid another then silent. I shape words which fall off my tongue and lie in puddles on the floor. I step in them slipping regaining perilous toehold. I scream strangled thoughts dreams are forgotten the night laughs, she touches my forehead with her lips I welcome the silence of sleep.
First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts 23:2, 1998