Driving home late on ice-bitten road,
my headlights probing like a blind-man's fingers,
the night trembling with snow, my boy
blissfully asleep in his magic chair
They appeared from the abyss
as if projected by the moon,
their legs flowing silently through the snow
a herd of deer, fleeing remembered guns
Leaping in plumes of electricity,
embracing us in soft brown flesh,
implicating me in my own breaths
and every snow that falls unseen.
Their eyes seemed to know me from long ago,
their leafy heads nodding as if in prayer.
We swung in one motion, relentless, pure,
then they curved beneath the night and disappeared.
When my son stirred, I could not tell
who had dreamed and who had been awake.
I only knew we were safe and blessed,
and I had never lived and would never die.
We caught him when he drowned his dreaming books,
star-wound man, wrapped in himself.
--From behind, where all good treasons grow,
--From beyond, where happy endings never go.
Tyrant, he fed my thirst salt water,
clapped me devil, deformed slave, spat sharp bile
on my scaly gabardine,
did beat me and curse me beast,
words do howl and bite and hate me still,
forgetting I, a king, outrank him.
Time took me my careful plotting.
Beware the tortoise outlive you all.
His daughter took me willing.
Her man played only that chess.
I won her, and smoothed her hair back
with tumbling song and all the beauty
I kept from sleep, on the cursed rock
I loved her for the shipwrecks in her eyes.
And she did love me, did kiss my wounds,
till I turned beast, drunkard, man, king, all---
And you, spinner of words and worlds,
we'll make you a meal to stuff a gullet full.
Hunger tames all vile offenses,
and I am the darkness I call mine.
My island, mine,
where I am again mine own king.
Freedom. High-day! Freedom! Free!
Now I go eat my dinner.
*both poems previously published in Tertulia Magazine
An Elderly Jewish Man Confronting Alzheimer’s
I grow weary of numbers,
tumbling to a shimmering dust.
There is no getting back
except through forgetting.
I have remembered too long
and too much, now I long
to breathe the darkness
and touch the silence
between drops of rain.
Sunlight dances on my eyelids,
the moon escapes the net of faces,
the universe folds
like a sleeping flower,
and all is altered
by the sound of a fly
spinning circles in a glass.
Let the mind return
seeking arterial destinations.
I will hide my face
in the soonest wind.
Touch me, touch me,
Show me the hiding place
where no one is alone.
*first published in European Judaism
The Escape Artist
--for Gerard de Nerval
When fools ask in mocking breaths
why he keeps a lobster on a leash,
he whispers: "Because it never barks
and knows the secrets of the deep."
He studies the blue, electric breeze
tease the pregnant silk curtain,
ocean breaths exiled from eternity,
memory of orbits unspun.
He sees the darkness knit by match flames,
deciphers hieroglyphs clawed in the walls.
Heat lightning illuminates starry knives
that touch passion to the bone of love.
Is someone knocking at the door?
Descending branches long for him,
but a ceiling beam's faith is certain.
A centipede blows across the floor.
Perfect magician, musician of love,
he casts himself to the nearing stars.
He bequeaths us a final geometry,
a broken tower that crucifies the sky.
Nerval's silhouette rocks an endless arc,
dares what gravity might redeem,
conspiracy of moon and shadow,
deeper in darkness than crickets dream.
Although his last words died alone
and his misery bred mockery from chance,
around and around his mute, broken bones
the leaves spin in xylophones of dance.
Words And Things
am haunted by the death in things,
their heaviness, texture, inertia,
the scrape of dirty dishes that shatters hearts,
the muffled weeping of old shoes in the closet...
And words, too, are things,
after the illusion,
words that hide behind clothes and names,
and bleed, suffer and are crucified
And what if, after all,
death itself is not eternal,
but embodied in the lust of stones
and the dust rolled beneath our fingernails,
baptized in tears of hornets
and all hope of resurrection
swaying gently on a pile of shattered eyeglasses?
Heartlessness in the depths of forms!
I think God is a poem
aesthetic, unified, cold,
the work death made free,
strung with sinews of barbed irony
and the obscenity of gleaming prosthetics.
*both poems previously published in Miller’s Pond