Results for category "2015"

26 Articles

We’re on our own

We’re on our own
Looking back, here’s
where our roads clashed
Here they intersected,
here they cut or crashed
Seriously ill, the strongest thing he’d take
was aspirin because if he took the opium
they offered, he couldn’t think
It’s the littlest things, the serendipities,
the desired, the inscrutable yearnings
We act like dilettantes sometimes,
flower to flower, like bees

The first woman I made love to,
Carol, studied dance
She taught me that
the more I turned her on
the more turned on I’d be
She was serious about dance
but didn’t have that ultimate it in her—
not enough uncanny,
not enough wild technical savvy
She couldn’t let
her wondrous interior grace,
her intimate animal fires, dance

The forces that draw us toward
and away from one another,
are much stronger than us
The hidden qualities
the unique voids,
the fiery ardors,
the salient, valiant connections
The physical trainer with
her gray haired balding client is
happy enough but in brief moments
looks like she’d rather be
anywhere but here

When she hums to herself
Grandma hears the orchestra and her young voice
gorgeous in its articulated, classical French
“Fucking sonofabitch—bad reference?
Not only did he give you a bad reference,
he fucking called back ten minutes later
to bad mouth you again—
fucking sonofabitch!”
Grandma always took the leftover
restaurant rolls “for later” she said
Raised in the depression, she
knew hunger and didn’t forget

I thought I saw my dear,
late friend Patricia walk towards me—
her sophistication, intelligence, the lightness
of her gait; but the woman who
approached didn’t actually resemble her
Yes, the same shy vivacity but Pat wasn’t
blond— her pale skin and similar gait though—
So, what if it had been her,
would I be happy to see her again?
Then I thought “yes I would”
Though we never did connect
I’d be glad to see you again

Mom spent a lot, but she made a lot,
just like me
Rachel, remember when you and I fed
the pigeons in Venice?
We drank beer and fed them crackers
Good times for us like these
Grandma, whatever else, surely knew how to sing
Serious, focused, disciplined and optimistic
we all, depending on our sect,
have our ingrained visions of success
Together and apart—
hopeful, animated, unique





-December 26, 2015-

There’s something so obtuse

There’s something so obtuse
about the way I mostly think,­­­
the breadth I choose
The surgeon held her lungs
half decayed with cancer in his hands
Much that I assumed would last
forever perishes like the lapse from
what I wanted and finally grasped

“Are you depressed?
Columbia’s new brain imaging
machine will cure you”
You must cherish her
take good care of her
Some kind of addled experiment that
involves the collectivization of gaiety
and the compulsory infliction of joy

The racket that some of us
called music finally stops
Some clocks are right twice a day
but most are never quite right
“So did you do the exercises?
Nobody does the exercises”
This car is powered by diesel fuel
and that car is powered by blood

What’s the significance of three orange
lights all aligned in a row overhead?
We don’t know if this is a frightful comedy
or the harshest kind of rhythmic drama
No point to chide her for her failure
to achieve what she didn’t attempt
She was a great, great lover but
she never loved me




-December 12, 2015-

We perceived

We perceived, we heard in the news—
a stridency that became everyday
smaller, nastier, meaner, and so dangerous
“You’re married so, ha ha,
you know how it is”
Some walk in the crosswalks while others
go diagonally across

“There I was cut off from the cosmopolitans
who couldn’t confuse or torment me so
I was forced to become original”
Those are some of the crumbs he left behind
Now when I walk on uneven ground
my foot sometime scrapes the road—
Jeez, pick up your feet old man

Life can thrive with little oxygen,
without light, in the blare of extreme light,
in the brutality of caves and
in an airy buoyant chemical cloud,
in the frozen pressure of the sea,
or in some airless high space at 400 degrees
Fahrenheit above or below freezing

Lady, I had a boxer dog just like yours as a kid
but unlike you my parents stupidly
trimmed her ears and cut her tail
which made her vicious
Howard held strong convictions and because
our backgrounds were similar
our disagreements were strong

So he dully went here and he dully went
there and he dully wrote something bland
about it which his dutiful biographer
scrupulously records
And that’s what we know about it
and him other than his work which, really,
is the only reason to remotely care

I no longer meet Michael and see him
drink his wine with such deep enjoyment
Real happiness may occur, I know,
when I’m alone
“Wine” he said, “is such a civilized drink”
His voice and others past can clarify
when I’m alone

And I no longer get to resolve
some quandary by arguing with Howard
except in the recesses of my mind
where people we knew in this life
become just what they symbolize
This is how I got here and this
is who I am





-November 29, 2015-


Grandma close to 83,
severe arthritis in her back,
never uses a walker
She takes a glass of hot water (hot!) and lemon
each morning, then grinds some coffee beans
She’ll drink her coffee, Russian style,
in a glass, with a spoon, some milk and sugar
Makes herself oatmeal on the stove each morning
Does her yoga exercises and then eats
Their dying suspensions, their
elegant colors, their gradations
of greens to orange, to browns like paper
Oh their irritating contempt for expertise, their
obtuse racist appeals, to xenophobia, to ignorance
Our own ancestors, immigrants all,
would have been despised by them—
furious death where the waters splash—
would have been ashamed of them
The piercings no longer hurt
and all of her tattoos have
settled smoothly into her skin
Not so real your love, yes,
your bullshit love, your
nonsense love, your selfish,
supercilious, fickle, superficial love, yes
your damnable kind of love, yes, love
that dies in the heart
“Here he comes,
Mr. Joy, Mr. Charm”
or so my English teacher greeted me
in high school, and in all fairness
to Mr. Schwartz, I was morose
Never knew how or saw the need
to charm him or anyone else
Not this—that; not that—this
Not this or that until our core is reached
They’re all dead,
everyone in those family pictures
other than me
How can that be?
He’s that minor playwright who
sits at the table drinking ale,
all belligerent-like— you know—
the one who was murdered before
his work had a chance to mature
“Such courage your mother in her pain
to join us—such joie de vivre, such courage”
Mom never acquiesced in that sentiment
What did you expect her to do, idiot—
ball up into her illness like clay?
Why are those useless others alive when she isn’t?
The shallow ones who compete, who complain,
who irritate me, crowd me, like on the subway
when all I want is to ride in peace
Grandma was a character—
She referred to herself with us as
“your decrepit old grandma”
Never needed a walker and did yoga daily
She was convinced that
she’d get cancer
and then, one day, she did
The leaves are dying but not the trees
Are we the leaves?





-November 14, 2015-

There’s a place

There’s a place where some of us go
Some call it the “zone”
others the “endless river”
He was a master painter but that
wasn’t enough—he became a master
sculptor as well

We yearn for the symbiotic,
the “not us” that we always need
Like the thinness between the must
and the parasitic
Like the sharpness, the toughness, the resilience,
like the gnawing in my heart

It’s an accident, this life
What if I had to eke out my living instead?
Would I scrounge from the tourists on the beach,
sell them cigarettes ($10 a pack), Cuban cigars,
small trinkets, or beg and sing to them, or sell them
marijuana or small sacks of real Jamaican coffee?

It ain’t all right if the beach ain’t raked
My job is to rake the beach
My skeleton will press in upon itself
bone upon bone— the old crone parody
like a thin wrinkled monster,
with her squats and heavy shoulder weights

It’s an old fashioned place with metal keys
and metal locks
She’s a conductor who starts the orchestra
and abruptly stops them
“No, no, no this is all wrong— start again”
because she hates what she hears

Like a hunted deer, like a bear in his cave,
like a duck who can no longer fly,
she carries her walking stick
to the river’s edge
Gradually his memory of her will fade,
he thought, and he won’t think of her again

You can’t just play the notes, damn it
or recite the words as you were taught
If you make it look like it matters
but can’t get behind the words
or under the notes
you’ll never get there
It’s a matter of kinetics
Even in a picture that just suggests
movement—her way of moving
moves me to the sexual,
the give and take of natural lust,
so erotic and so sensual

His actor friend, the one with visions
of Shakespearean epiphanies in his head,
is often hired to do advertisements
When he first had to meet with a
marketing suit, he held his head up nobly
and thought he might vomit

Gene R never met a funeral she didn’t like
If she just barely knew you,
you poor deceased bastard, or anyone who
knew you, never fear, Gene R was there
The saint was a big man
The artist painted him in red

Dad started to cry
when he saw the hospital bills
So sick and now this
Though his feet touched the ground
the saint is elevated and well
on his way to heaven

She sometimes gives the impression
of one not understood and injured
“We have a problem,” Marge wrote
She meant Mike had a stroke
My brother ignores my work
and I ignore his

Relationships are fragile—
Remember that guy who smoked
in the doorway?
Unthinking darkness
He leaves his blue bag on the subway
Realizes it right away

Ascends the stairs to report his loss
Maybe they’ll find it
The stairs are endless
He ascends and he ascends, he climbs
and he climbs, until the blue sky and a
sharp cramp in his leg wake him up



-October 31, 2015-

As to my clothes

A country that descends from
the agony of slaves and immigrants
These people—it seems you can
rarely find your footing with them

There’s a hard core to our
selfishness like a dull ache
We don’t love nature when we fail
to see the little she loves us back

This doesn’t end well
The promises you kept, like a
love no longer there, even after all
these years—might you still hunger?

I remember that body,
that mind of hers— her artist’s chops
If you like it, asks the sale’s script,
will you buy it?

Days of pressure, sleeplessness,
betrayals, ultimatums, the erotic,
the exotic loves we lose and the
sweetness of the loves we praise

Said the old comedian
“I don’t dance anymore
or fall down funny
My vocal chords are still good

but my body is broken”
We live with secrets revealed
only between the boundaries
of our densities and surface

Dad would say if you told him of a
pain, say, in your shoulder or knee that you
could have a cold in your shoulder or
knee—Dad had a Ph.D.

but it wasn’t in medicine
“I told you that’s a very bad symptom
for you, Mrs. Weinberg,” her oncologist said
You were supposed to call me immediately!”

The doctor isn’t convivial and doesn’t
seek conviviality in others
“As to my clothes when I die,”
Dad wrote, “get rid of ‘em”




-October 10, 2015-

You swear

You swear and lose
your temper like him
You act all tough like him
But that doesn’t mean you’re him
Why don’t you copy some
of his good qualities, instead?

I dreamt the platform sundered apart
Which part, for me, is best?
He was a fighter-man often confused—
addicted to booze, the ladies, tobacco
Very often sad, just a little wistful
The gambler in him

always hoped, waited—
waited for something good
that wouldn’t come
Why can’t you kids imitate his
compassion, for one, his empathy,
courage, integrity, loyalty and wit?
Let’s flatter each other—I’ll start:
Babe, you’re lookin’ magisterial, even
a tad imperial, mysterious, uncanny;
you’re so uninhibited, you’re on fire,
you’re all sex, you’re pleasure itself—
you’re the best, love, the best

Would our fathers, who never met,
would they have gotten along?
Yes, I think they surely would
For one—they were both businessmen
who served in the Second World War
and both made their mark in advertising

Her religious piousness, her sure condemnations,
her disdain for the sexual, homosexual,
her revulsions, obtuseness, rigid fears
of anything that even hints of perverse,
made me hate religion, its opacity, recoil at
her capacity, her obtuseness, for bigotry
The old man, still outgoing, upbeat, still has it—
He can still make his ad-work zing
But his contacts drop from view or retire
and no one hires him anymore
He doesn’t need the money but sometimes,
when she looks at him, he seems kind of lost

My Dad— a good writer, creative, the quintessential
public relations guy, yours, creative, also a writer
whose specialty was direct mail
Your father was outgoing, cultured, and funny
My Dad, a doctorate in philosophy, intelligent and witty,
if somewhat, like me, rigorous and introverted

In the end one likes or dislikes people
for who they are, not for this or that reason
The way they look, speak, their expressions,
what one feels when they enter a room
It’s like a light that shines in the light—
mostly unnoticed, harder to see




-September 27, 2015-

It was the masseuse

It was the masseuse who told Mom
that while she could provide temporary relief
for her stiff back spasms,
something was terribly wrong
and she needed to see a specialist

I scrupulously mark all my birthdays
but I don’t think I’ll see 83
Do you live well and free?
Did you answer to your promise?
I see some awful things and turn away

It’s as though they breed those dogs
to have smiley faces—
Smiley-faced bulldogs please
Fighting Mom’s cancer was a chess game;
relentless rooks destroyed her piece by piece

Names frequently elude me
Energy, I suppose, is saved
and my reflexes are just a bit slower
Ruth fed me her sugar and left
when I was satisfied

Genocide against us doesn’t teach
us to treat humanity with respect;
what we learn is to strike
the bastards first
Even your Daddy wasn’t perfect

When we started she insisted
that I get an earring for my left ear
I didn’t want one but I did it for her
We went together to some kid’s store
full of trinkets and got it done

The skin closed over that scar
Hateful woman, what if I’d refused?
What would be our story then?
An act of favor, I wanted
to do this for her

There was a sage
from long ago, an artist
He knew how our hearts beat
better than we know our own
“In this cold world”

The one-eyed black singer sang
“I sing of those with
sufficient warmth for you”
The one who gets their attention
isn’t always the loudest

He’s often the most dexterous,
the most effective with his words
After great pain you may see straight—
All clear like when you first put on
your glasses in the morning

She found the old man asleep alone
in a pocket park on a bench by a tree
He wandered away last night
half out of his mind with
dementia and grief

When Mom was so sick
I don’t think she was really afraid
until the day she couldn’t fight her way
through that indifferent subway crowd
and missed her stop

Walking across the bridge the two
approach from opposite directions
He won’t yield and she won’t yield
So they angrily bump shoulders
as they pass by each to each

Driving back from the beach
where a young cop said we couldn’t
stay “The season’s over, sir”
Mom said she couldn’t see why
he had to bother a nice family like us

“Did he have to ruin our day?”
Dad said “He was just doing his job”
Ruthy was exotic, she was erotic, she was hot
Tell me great sage “Do the ancient,
lusty dead, long again for this life?”

I dreamt my back was ruined, scarred
by red boils that everyone but me could see
Without my dreamy mirror I wouldn’t have
seen a thing and I thought “I’ll be
attractive again only when they heal”




-September 12, 2015-

In the morning

With the flowers,
with my dogs
I drink black coffee
in the garden,
in the summer,
in the morning
after dawn

I ceaselessly erase you,
as I ceaselessly erase me
The only rejoicing
is involuntary rejoicing
The only true joy
is spontaneous joy—
unplanned happiness and joy

In a closed hierarchy
everyone knows who’s who—
where they sit, where they go
But from outside we look alike
The rules here changed
Total certainty, total commitment,
total revenge, total blame

I was so sure
I was so wrong
When life has no sense
I pick nonsense
What nonsense shall I pick?
Those who don’t know what
throw what they don’t know away

We didn’t grow older together
I see her face again
in that temperamental, sparkling place
In my mind’s reflections
odd and rash —
meticulous, slanderous,
ravenous and sharp

The guy in the high school cafeteria
used to call coffee “coal”
“That’s good coal” he’d say
“I made that coal, myself”
As the leaves begin to change
maybe love will come for me again
There’s still time

We’re nature’s eyes and ears
We’re the animal perceivers, her recorders
Without us nature’s blind,
dumber still and deaf
Plenty of time, yes
There’s plenty of good times left—
Oh well, not now, not yet




-August 29, 2015-

With grades like those

Feisty pigmy goats will bite and butt,
rut and fight against anyone
They have no idea how little they are
They think they’re giants
Little flecks of glass embedded
in the blacktop sparkle like jewels
A sunny glare in my eyes,
deception in a cloudless sky
Grass and tree scents
the diversity of green scents
the exuberance of purple weeds—
roguish, rude weeds by the roadside
He drinks a dragon’s blood and thinks
he hears, at last, the birdsongs right
Too much explanation before,
too little sweet soft vibrancy
Howard gave advice about the “mot juste”
the perfect word for that comely space
Between long baths and shots of insulin,
there’d be the perfect word
So precious this life, so slow
If he bought tickets to a show
and nobody wanted to go,
he’d go to the show alone
“With grades like those what
do you think you’ll be when you grow up?”
“A baseball player, Pop, a baseball star”
“Right, a baseball player star”
Like an automaton
the same deviousness, guile,
gestures and promises—
The same old stuff
Folks from Yale think they’re giants
The ground they walk on grates beneath
their feet as though besieged by love,
by the one they love

A predator dressed as a friend in need
like a harmless kitten
Your predator, your kitten—
Young but not youthful
I have a special thing for exalted ladies
with wistful smiles
and lusty, lively hearts
So many of us got lost
Scars form and the pain returns
if only for a few moments
He thinks of the void and how
the wanderer finds peace
He gets all mystical
on the elliptical
Yah, thinks he sees gods,
as one tune follows another



-August 15, 2015-