Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Variations on the Theme of Paradise


she steps down from the sky
down from my exhalations
fogging the winter night

she walks on my breathing
to my frozen lips
she doesn’t kiss me

I remember her
when I remember to dream
she turns away

her breath fills the sky
the sky turns white with longing
the sky disappears

I am lost


light is everywhere
it’s neither sun nor moon
nor glittering ice

she steps down from
the sighing mist
in her eyes
she opens her mouth
to speak
to sing
to scream

climb, she says,
the final step
is your answer

I climb
she watches
light is everywhere

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


the antique lamp
peers over my shoulder
and percolates caged white light
on wild black words
displaying them for show

dial down illumination
over-zealous light
burns eyes to ash

please keep the light in its cage
200 tame white watts slyly sliding by
are almost enough to see
what I abandoned

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In My Old Age

the silence of sundown
blossoms into song
and I can only decline
the other side
the underside
of song

at five my hair was yellow and curly
I was thin as water
and beautiful as
wildness in an unblighted field

today my hair is whiter than a wildness of snow
and I’m as unbeautiful
as vanished wisdom
seeking tomorrow
in yesterday’s songs

I’ve gone from here to there
in the space of a breath
between measures of song

I almost hear
the silent songs of yesterday
and the urging of
tomorrow’s songs

but today
today I bless the present
with each new song

Monday, July 20, 2009

Some Kind of Epiphany

on the best day ever
the silent songbird soared into song
the blossomless bush
bloomed red and yellow thorns
and the starless sky raged with heaven’s light

I was a witness
blind and deaf and mute
I tried to see and hear
I tried to sing
about the unseen and unheard

I wanted to tell you : it was radiant

Sunday, July 12, 2009


rises into song
every dawn
every dusk
is song
and every child of earth
a rising song

bless darkness and light
bless falling and rising
bless the children of earth
rising into song

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My War

On reading Helen Degen Cohen’s Habry

My war was cartoon Nazis and Japs, rationed sugar, bubblegum a treat. It was Superman belting Hitler through a hole in the universe, John Wayne belting everyone else. It was Bob Hope and Bing Crosby cracking wise, Glen Miller and Benny Goodman. It was walking with my big sister to Cherokee Dairy for a hot fudge sundae. And it was walking with my cousins down Bardstown Avenue to a Saturday matinĂ©e at the Uptown Theatre—Hopalong Cassidy, Tarzan with his gorgeous Jane, his trained ape and elephants, and there were Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck battling Nazis. There was always a newsreel; I remember an odd little man screaming to a huge crowd, and planes screaming death, and marching men in high boots with rifles on their shoulders.

We lived on a street of tall black-walnut trees, brick duplexes and apartments, and sirens and blackouts. I remember Dad with his black helmet and black flashlight guarding Rutherford Avenue. I remember him laughing, “I can’t get old man Passamaneck to turn his lights off,” and Mom saying, “Leave him alone, maybe the Japs’ll get him and we’ll be rid of him.” How little we knew.

And so my childhood passed. How could I have known about distant cousins in Lithuania and Poland disappearing through a hole in the universe? That wasn’t my world.

Sometimes I almost regret my easy childhood. And I marvel that I was here, not there. I don’t think I would’ve been a hero. I don’t think I would’ve been lucky, whatever that might have meant at that time and place.

Now I live at my ease on a street of tall maples, oaks and sugarberries, old homes and quiet. There’s no violence, nothing threatening in my neighborhood—no sirens, no blackouts. We raised three children here in peace. I don’t know what I did to deserve my life.

I know only that I’m here in this tiny speck of the universe in my tiny portion of time, that I can only honor my childhood and my lucky, innocent parents.

I bless my days. I can do nothing else.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blues in Black and White

that erratic
north-and-south town,

suffered Negroes,
(the proper term in ’53)
in their proper place

in the crowded West End
and, I untested son
of immigrants,

was warned
to stay away:
They’ll cut your throat

for fifty cents,
and I, untested son, was
trained to belief.

It was our summer
of bravado,
our summer of testing.

We were preening
little Brandos and Bogies,
artless and scriptless,

and one murky evening
in steamy August
a tattered carnival,

and there we were,
marks for the grifters
gaffs and freaks,

and the barker barked
fifty cents, gents,
she takes it all off,

a plump little redhead,
sagging belly and breasts,
her sagging BB eyes catching mine,

Only five bucks, she grinned,
I’ll teach you things
your momma don’t know,

and tested, I said no,
and the grinning barker
and two roustabouts closed in,

and tested, we ran to my car,
and I drove too fast
in the wrong direction,

lost in my own home town
in a forbidden quarter
of quiet streets,

neat cottages,
well trimmed lawns,
ancient elms and flower beds,

and I meandered till
finally I said
what’s this shit they tell us?

We’re the only
assholes here.
Well, asshole, find your way

home, Bobby said,
find your way home,
and I finally did

but home when
I found it was never
quite the same again.