Results for category "2017"

26 Articles

Sweetly bitter

Mourning for the time when
I felt like this—in love and
so sure

She was sweetly bitter—erotic
not loving
I tried to love her anyway
What for?
My priorities all wrong

Whoever he is
he doesn’t quite

“Hey Pete” (why do working
class people always call me Pete?)
he says casually as he looks at pictures
in the Daily News “You don’t own stocks
Why do you read that if you don’t own stocks?”

I was crude, rude and mean
But you did, you know,
rip my heart out 

He was referring to the NY Times
“You got to own stocks
if you’re gonna read that”
The night sky flickers lightly
as we tire of life

There can be nothing
more important now
than these flickering stars

Sometimes loud and sometimes soft,
it’s not just the memories,
it’s the frame of mind—yesterday my
double, my doppelganger appeared on the
opposite platform from the train I was on

Where was he going?
What did he think?
Lost in his own fictions

She was one of the few I knew
who really liked the cold
She said “Just ease into it
Breathe slow and deep and,
of course, dress warm”

Some crude vivid memories
didn’t happen or
didn’t happen to me 

“Then let the cold soothe you,
bring you ease and peace and
calm the heated heart’s sting”
Through what’s funny you can
get to say what’s sad

I see the months in textures
The days are repeating pastels
Each 30 day sprint its own cloth

The stars were putting on quite
a show for me as they mocked me
They know they’ll still be here
long after I’m gone
You know what will happen

What has this life been?
Whatever has it meant?
Not yet

Sometimes, the current flows
right with me and I say “Not yet”
Sometimes, I have to go past
what’s wonderful to get
to what’s actually wonderful

Our sex was great for years
Unlike others we never got bored
until she did 



-December 23, 2017-

Our stalwart king

In the days when cigarettes, cigars
and pipes were okay and many
society barons (long forgotten, dead,
or disgraced) regularly betrayed us
and our faces, for fun, were blackened with
black cork, and darkness closed in
and extinguished both passion and

intelligence, our stalwart king (a figurehead
we figured) of Romania had the august
temerity, the noblesse oblige, to arrest
our Nazi puppet dictator in our country’s castle
where the cruelty of nature was matched tat
for tat with the inherent cruelty of religion
Oh, how that dictator was hated

and for that special moment
our dictator was gone, deposed by
our artificial, pictorial, stalwart king
We then survived a thousand dawns
before the communists came
and forced our king to leave
“Abdicate before you and a thousand

of your most ardent student followers die”
He expressed himself with a certain roughness
but was beloved by the people who wanted
to be whole and wanted all their parts to work
I, myself, don’t want to be all that
different from anyone else
Only your lovers can truly betray you

On note spluttered pages, Howard
wrote about how much he hated our
angry, violent father
I didn’t feel that way and never
thought our dad could die
His death was my first lessen
in life’s inherent sadness

He died young, and maybe,
had he lived, he would have
changed and Howard wouldn’t
have had to carry that hate around
the way he did until he died
Maybe the whole universe would have
opened up in a different way for them both

I, myself, am a bit like grandma
I like whole milk yogurt, oatmeal, I’m
musically inclined, going a little deaf, and
I sometimes hum to myself like she would
and, oh yes, I’m a bit curmudgeonly like she was
without meaning anybody any permanent harm
Said a woman known for her scandals

“It wasn’t sex for money that caused
me my problems” she said “That was
done in desperation and to pay some bills
It was when I had sex for love or
lust that always caused the trouble
Look, in those days there were
good girls and bad girls

Good girls had no sex at all
and bad girls had just a bit”
The deposed king left Romania
by train with the following essentials:
nine cases of gin, four American
automobiles, and three shotguns
The government claimed he stole

a state portrait of himself but the
king denied this and settled in Switzerland
where he sired five daughters and went on
to be a commercial pilot, a stockbroker and,
briefly, a chicken farmer
He knew his forced abdication was illegal
and finally died, in his mind and ours, a king



-December 9, 2017-

He has

He has an ability to see
a continually vivid play and is
constantly surrounded by hosts
of spirits— he feels the urge to
transform himself into other bodies
and speak through them because
he can’t drive their natures out

Often times I walk with that stride
that says I know exactly what I want
Get out of here—
stop living in your head
That’s huckster country—
the blue rage in your veins
the tragic bleed in night air

when I stayed at the fair too long
Nothing good ever happens after 10pm
Go to bed then
“Yes, retirement is fine,” she says
“I don’t go out in the cold
or find myself with the shivers
on Riverside Drive

at 7 at night in winter”
“If you think because you’re
young there’s plenty of time,
think again” said the sage
We are who we love and
only the few you love
can show you your truth

The detour over narrow Italian
mountain roads, their precipitous drops,
in a bulky tour bus, roads made perfectly,
for horses—and you grasped my hand hard
and I made you laugh when I asked about
Karl (who we met at the airport
when meeting our tour, who was

on another tour like, but not, ours) a
retired, friendly, outgoing guy and I asked
you, deadpanned, “What would Karl do?”
Emotions contract, expand and drift
Would he grieve for the lives
he could have lived, forget and live on?
You say you love nature as

though nature loves you
After his star performance
I thought there would be all sorts
of people— admirers,  laughers, fine woman
but nothing—there he was eating
alone and so lonely
So I followed my gut

to that god-awful country
I could see, I could walk, I could
shoot—so I stayed at the fair too long
like some vulture who
thinks he’s an eagle
What we sold to them then was the
same lies we always sell

as oily as our dullest secrets
Did the music of the time express
the horror of the time?
“There’s no choice here, buddy—
When the shooting starts you
react or you won’t live to
have any grandchildren”

Grandpa took dad’s death hard
It wasn’t the way things were supposed
to be—new made leaves cracked dry,
changed colors and fell not in late Fall
but in the summer’s heat and years
later this insipid slick grass covers
the fields where so many of us died



-November 25, 2017-

I never pray

With these old teeth,
if I still ate candy bars
I’d cut them with a knife
Disintegrate, eliminate, disseminate,
gravitate—for the most part we
just graze one another
like some restless, fateful rabble

In one of my first job interviews
bald big boss asked me if I knew
anything about envelopes
There I was thinking what
the fuck is there to know
about envelopes?
“No sir, I don’t”

She’s such a dreamy girl,
not really here—
she visits me occasionally
Revenge can, at best, restore honor—
nothing more
It won’t repair loss,
fill voids or gladden

Sometimes when I make love to her
she chuckles when my beard tickles her
Another tough talking woman I met
said “I don’t make love, I fuck”
I said “Try making love some time”
Some strivers regard all they meet
as a means, delay, an obstacle

or at best, a temporary resting place
I yearned for you
All day I checked my phone every hour
for a sign from you,
for your message
His screams ascend to heaven
and demand revenge

The darkness here
is now a visible strain
We’re humble when poor,
arrogant when rich, everything
is clean or dirty, right or wrong,
good or bad, true or false
She said “I’m so glad you’re here”

She was once young, thin,
alluring, outgoing and unhappy
Now she’s old and delighted,
grotesque and satisfied
with pictures of her blond little
grandchild to show us, a girl
not half as moody as she was

On a certain Monday in October
harpies flew from my table
Later, when the November winds
blow— my lady of anguish goes
away because her response to pain
is to leave—oh, it could have been
good, it could have been really good

I didn’t want to see
I didn’t want to think
about that history
I’ve searched enough through
time, darkness and loss
I never pray but if I did,
I’d pray for you




-November 11, 2017-

Every surface

Every surface, a cloak
Every face, a mask
He retires: “I just drink
my little beers and do some
cookin’, anything I feel like
‘cause that’s the kind of
good that don’t wear out”

She’s 60 now and man
she’s had a mean life
“If it wasn’t for my wife
I wouldn’t go to a party
When you’re with people they
take everything out of you”
The inexorable decline

of body and mind—
Old Heifetz stumbles around his
luxurious Malibu house and mumbles
to himself, “I don’t want to die,
I don’t want to die”
It was like an orienting goal,
a disorienting spin-around

Look at them as they
creep toward winter alone, lonely,
without shelter (one of them still
wears his tie and striped business shirt)
homeless, ragged, asleep on the floor in
this early Grand Central Station morning,
or on a subway bench or in the streets

“If you could just appreciate women
without always hankering after them”
The moral creed of slaves:
“Solitude, fasting, sexual abstinence”
What I think today resembles
but won’t be the same
as what I’ll think tomorrow

“For 27 years from September
to December, I put my armor on
and engaged in this brutal, relentless
game of football—I’m too old
to give it one more shot but
get me, I miss it, the banter, bustle,
the hits, the rage and I do wish

I still had it in me ”
If you really see the abyss
the abyss will really see you
Some men feel the sexual
attraction of women as some kind
of scorching, irritating twist
They assault women as if it is

There are more of them than
a reasonable person would guess
She’s older like me and now’s
content to play “earth mother”
to a crowd of young hounds
When young she’d never obsequiously
flatter obnoxious, bogus authorities

I have a daughter too
So I lent him the money
(a hundred bucks or so)
so he could “pay the rent
without embarrassment”
So his daughter could see a
guy who could make the rent

Idiots, she was hot like you when
young and had her fair share of lovers
“Don’t worry, I work construction”
Of course, his check bounced
and I never saw him again
When you’re poor you cheat—
you do that kind of thing

Up against his self-limits again,
his jaw is set too hard
He would confer benefits but is
ashamed if he has to receive them
“In any oppressive regime, no one
says what they mean and we never
know what our neighbors really think”




-October 28, 2017-

He drops the bag

He drops the bag
and the glass bottle breaks
Grandma advises her:
“Men don’t like to hold small things
They’ll drop them
Give them big, bulky things to hold instead”
Take life as it is, she thinks

He awoke to find his glasses on the floor,
his pot pipe fallen behind the end-table
Leaves like little red tinkles set
in breezy brown branches sing
Dr. Campbell said, “It all boils down
to this—the big fish eat the little fish
so the little fish better be smart”

Old John lectures the audience about
the right kind of self-absorption and
in response to her question—she was red-
haired, young and sexy in an innocent way—
asked whether she accepted what
he said about it and she said “When it
comes from you I do, it’s okay”

Worlds vanish as we blind ourselves
to the brighter and darker shadows and
tonalities of appearance
“When I wear this mask who
would you find to examine me? These
charts are the kind of thing that help those
who are helped by that kind of thing”

Genuine inner warmth and disinterested
courage that seeks no crude advantages
At 66 there’s more before than ahead
Her face blushes pink in the moon’s dull
after-light—she loves what’s odd
and strange while he’ll complain of
slack, flabby air and an excess of light

So this guy phones Matt all mad
“When’re you going to fix my roof?!!!” and
Matt, is not the roof guy, but couldn’t resist
and asks “So what’s wrong with your
roof?” and the guy really screams now
“You know damn well what’s wrong
with my roof!!!”

at which point Matt takes pity on him and
says, “Sir, I think you have the wrong number”
We carry our burdens and set them down
There’s madness in the heights
No, I don’t fear the night though I
thrash in pain and greed, and know
that sleep is like death’s brother

When I nearly drowned in the ocean,
Myer, with those sharp eyes of his,
saw me struggle for breath from
the shore and alerted the lifeguards
Some lives save and add fire to others
If my dad didn’t die when he did
he’d surely be dead by now

Reasons can’t stop tragedy
Emotions create nothing
When sadness comes, superficial
luxurious substitutes don’t
mean a thing— and their lack of
perfection, like some fallow sort
of phantom love, offends me



-October 21, 2017-

The wolf

That dog’s no dog— she’s a wolf
See her deadly weary eyes shine
as the cowardly hunter sits perched
behind her like the bloody wolf’s his pet
He smiles as he holds his rifle and seems
to stroke the grey wolf’s head—not like
she’s his prey but his wildest, sweetest friend

Always a little off—not much
I comb my hair from the right
while everyone else goes left
Human genius is aristocratic, rare
an accident—“They’re a bit disconnected,
crotchety, these old people”
(with a slight shrug of his head)

“God bless ‘em,” said Tony
“you’ve got to be patient ‘cause
they see the world different”
Profundity of thought always the
result of slow, stultifying ruminations
We all want to be loved and,
though old, still yearn for it

An indignant man tells many lies
Good manners are a kind of empathy
Life’s gross store of bitterness
resists our profound comprehension
“That’s a bagel?”
the old European grandma asked
as she looks at it disdainfully

(it looked pretty good and fresh to me)
“Yes, Ma” said Jerry as he shook
his head sideways, “It is”
People (gods?) look better in this Renaissance
painting than they could have possibly looked
She didn’t appreciate my tone, she said
Such celestial purity and ease,

such vivid, burnished clarity
“Maybe I’m an alcoholic” said Jerry
“Each night I go home and have a glass
of scotch on ice and if I don’t have it
I really miss it”
Pity’s good for art—
all that sad bitterness

We’re free when we act only in
accordance with our innermost wishes
Wendy exalts in her good health
Our shortcuts, our short-term solutions
adopted, we think, on the way to perfect
When you see your passions as evil,
your passions are evil

A throb and an urgency called life
drives them together and will drive them
apart in an intellectually disturbed,
all too vulgar, world of everyday things
She’s most dangerous when almost beaten
“I’m safe but hiding in my humiliation”
Time is the thing we have least of

The wolf stands not for evil—
She’s a kind of misfortune like
an ultimate solver of riddles,
the redemption of all chance
We who lead interior lives
want to be understood
as we thrash our way into night

and awaken still unbeaten
“I kind of look bad in her memoir
Then I realized it was true
I was a no good bastard
It’s not the way I am now
but the way I was then”
An identity is less than a life



-September 30, 2017-

One fine day

With our instinctual indifference
to familiar non-predators we gather
together at the waterhole and seek
kisses given for love or commerce
Mary has a quality innate in some
women, a seductive power
not completely in her control

One fine day stretches
before me, somewhat grey
with a slight rain and I see
a surprising intensity of color
in our earthly flowers within
this lesser light—how bright
they look to me today

There are levels of intensity—
Jake plays practical jokes, makes
cutting remarks (like the sight of two
rotund colleagues that he dubbed “before
and way before”) to make you seem
ridiculous and yet he’s aggrieved and
indignant when the same is done to him

They say he moved to Maui, detoxed,
and became an avocado farmer
Mary suggests that she’ll grant us
her favors and maybe she will
If you want forgiveness find a priest
or rabbi ‘cause I’m not
someone who easily forgives

Powerful drink and drugs—they’ve
hurt so many people I know—
they numb their souls
So many of our interactions
seem needlessly insincere
It’s not that we deflate—it’s that
the universe expands without us

What’s happened to the mystery
woman, the one with the symbol
of pi tattooed to her shoulder?
She’s so beautiful you ache
to see her like some restless
unknowable force at a point where
your thoughts become stylish

Old Bill S at my first job,
one of the owners, walked past
my desk and asked for some
paperclips, so I gave him a few
He said “Thanks, dad” and like
a performance artist or mime
grabbed himself a fistful

He said “I’m proud of you, son”
when he heard I got into law school
Everything I want, though much,
isn’t everything like that
slow spoken old man’s voice
heard in a TV ad shot in black and
white while a man in his thirties

sits at the kitchen table, head in hands
as his wife holds a screaming baby
“Bills got you down?
Drive a tractor-trailer”
Then we cut to a smiling man,
his happy family shot in color
“This man does, call us today”

I dreamt that my dad was still alive
and that he and I had plans for the
evening, because we found hard to get
tickets to see the great soprano, Miuelletta,
recreate her signature role as the
tragic heroine in “La Sonamble Noblita”
a work that, like her, doesn’t exist



-September 16, 2017-

Visceral connections

Grandma had no taste for wine,
no palate and never told her story straight
Straight meant mean to her and for her
a little reticence, please, meant privacy
Mary was easy to talk to but at heart quite
cold—Grandma said “she’s cold that
one” and never saw what I saw in her

“You wear your hair long and wild
like some kind of mangy animal—
You disgust me” and she frowns
“What about your hair?” I said
“I think it’s smart,” she said
referring to her black, shiny, bouffant
which was, I thought, ridiculous

“Live and let live, my lady”
I said, which was, in those days,
as mild in provocation as I got
We know that we’re dying and still
we hope—in the mirror my face
is old—and whether she did or
did not agree, Mary always

seemed to agree with me,
like a whiff of perfume in the
air when she passes
and I, so generous (too much salt,
too much sugar) the pleasures
transitory, like an innate seductive
quality that ought to last forever

Many separate grains
distilled and contained within
a beach, much beyond reach
Sounds, silence, relations, rhythms
“Grandma, if it comes from the
heart there’ll be no stage fright” but
Grandma always suffered from stage fright

Mom never saw me graduate college
or law school, never saw me become
a skilled lawyer, a father or husband,
divorced man or kind man,
never read these poems, never
met my children and wasn’t
with me to love and help guide them

The cruelties and hardness
of life, like something lost in the past,
like a future that never arrives,
its pathos and unequal chances, its
conceit, self-forgetfulness, and patience
all there for us to see in this strident, fraught
dance of sadness, tenacity and cunning

Lost in thought as usual
I always had a good reason
for the changes I made, however
slight—and I won’t say more than I
want to say— like a labor of love and
hate, and I remember them all and how
they sometimes show themselves to me

Visceral connections are the
only innate, real connections
She and I, we laughed about
the same things, and she
and I were as innocent as
lovely small flowers that arise
from fragrant-less, wiry green weeds



-September 2, 2017-

That old disrupter

That old disrupter,
our grown friend’s father,
came to visit her from Greece
one Christmas and at her annual party
(lots of loud talkers, good food, drinkers)
I had to sit close to him to hear
him talk and was glad that I did

White-haired, rotund, outspoken,
he was a photographer when younger
His bolder photographs
weren’t his favorites—I and
others, though, admired them best
He thought they overreached—
in truth, style and harshness

My brother, how can all these creatures
have life and you have none?
“One world at a time,” she says
His gifts assert his dominance
He found the fine things
he expected to find, like some
mad, successful, social climber

“Thank you, dear boy” she said
and with those words I agreed
for a time not to be grown-up
Friendship, loyalty, humane values
“All law is created by the victors
for the vanquished”
So we try it all again

Her spirit made such an appeal
to his that he couldn’t
see her for what she is
So many cool sweet summer days
Real love isn’t, but is always
associated with, a willful
kind of unconditioned blindness

The power to truly appreciate
requires taking the trouble to
decipher oblique sublimes,
to steer within textured moon-showers,
to feel an ecstasy both infinite
and cold as moonlight when
you’re sweetly invited in

Bottom down algorithmic series create
organic, successful, adept and
cunning creatures who haven’t any idea
as to what they are or do
But we do—
My ragtag brotherhood can embrace
all their worldly sorrows

Love, by definition, is unconditioned
Millions upon millions feel
childish, powerless
Hardened fighters can’t govern
and their leaders are vile,
dishonorable and dishonest
She lowers her head

to hide her sad wretchedness
Then, out of spite, she marries a clown
My little daughter grabs my leg,
hides behind it and peers curiously
at those benign strangers, my colleagues
All my old guides have died—now
I’m the patriarch—I’m the guide



-August 19, 2017-