Friday, March 18, 2016

90 Proof

God exists, and if God exists, therefore God exists. 
Syllogistic conclusion, conclusive. 
A mother dies, a few minutes after, a chime
on the porch chimes. It’s mother saying, ”All
is okay. I’ve passed over.” Her son, a nonbeliever, 
succumbs. He reiterates: “It’s mom,” he says
to his grieving siblings. And then catches
himself. 

Sand flows upward in an hour glass,
Mystery
is contagious. Mystery codified is
doubly contagious.
It’s evolutionary, the son concludes, rather than 
mystery. Mystery is hopeless. Nonmystery 
is acceptance.
Humans accept.

There are no atheists in foxholes, goes
the bromide. That there are foxholes at all
is unquestioned: Foxholes exists, and if
foxholes exist, therefore foxholes exist. 
Can a foxhole be unproved? 

We are born blank, then quickly
swathed. To be seeded human is to be
seeded unhuman, inhuman. There are
no starting points for the individual. One must
flow upward first, like the sand in the hour glass,
but we know sand does not flow upward . . .
at least for the time being.

Hope springs eternal . . . hmm . . . . We do not 
allow facts
to interfere with tradition, wrote Orwell . . . 
somewhere. And if there are no facts,
merely observations? Tradition binds, 
questions do not.

Mankind seeks indefinite life. Why?
A crocodile doesn’t. How many angels can
dance on the head of a pin?
But are there angels? 
There are pins, so there must be angels.

I, too, am susceptible. I, too, am afraid.
People obliterated in wars, floods, 
they must go somewhere. Life cannot
be so dismissive.

I watch a gaggle of
Muslin girls shopping for
clothing. 
They’re amazingly innocent. But
they stick together. And they’re
the same: protected. Like the Hasids,
in their black suits in 90-degree weather,
the Catholic clergy in their gold wrappings.
All’s right with the world. 

Evolution, the man says. What has
evolved? Fear? Can it be that simple? 
And if it were that simple? 
I wonder.

I can live, but I knock on wood . . . 
What else can I do?

Such simplicity. No, not despair.
Simplicity. We are solitary but
of a species. And we know it. But that, too,
is mythologized—as a punishment. We are
charged with ignorance. . . .  Why is that?
Is it evolutionary?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Common

Benches have basements. Bolts, concrete, bricks,
four-sided and personal, open, for storage 
for numerous itinerants who pass, go back, sit, 
view the universe in a knuckle, a dime, who
is to say, a man, a woman, a spot, we’re all
on the move, store our papers in closets, holes,
no human should lack space. Benches have basements.
Derelicts fill them, we fill them, each of us
with a location, property, identity, a name, a card. 
Squatters, we’re all squatters. Time is good, 
tasty, for me, for Kristina, we down our vodkas
and my head spins with love, these evenings exist, 
there’s joy, no doubt, but there’s storage beneath 
benches, accessible, roomy, always available.



This poem appears in Stand in the U.K.—Vol.
13 (2)—the most recent issue as of this writing.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Step-sibling

Well-treated, included, but no one 
has my features. This dinner, this occasion, 
is glutted with members of a family I’m familiar with 
but is not mine. I’ve accepted an invitation, 
an assumption. It’s a long story in years but not 
in the telling, although I’m grateful for acknowledgment,
if not emotion. I accept what is offered 
and ask for no more.

No one’s fault—as if being born
in the hills of a drastic country. By age ten 
you are what you’ll become, and you can consume
it, as most do, or spend a lifetime rejecting it.
My freedom was thrust upon me by tragedy—
the details are unessential—but I grew into 
my freedom or it into me, or, rather, splashed 
around in its waters—and still do—but never 
quite owned it. One turbulence replaces 
another.

I know faces but not names, nor who 
belongs to whom, whose child is that, 
whose wife? And why have I come? Something
fractured about family life, more so 
when the family’s not yours, not even your friends. 

I smile, remain silent, on occasional life
breathing into me, but I never release,
for who am I to express an opinion? We had
a short past—a few years—but no 
present, nothing ongoing, no commonality.
Restrain and be temperate. Are my sentiments shared 
by the others? I can’t say, although my discomfort 
might be less obvious than I think.

I eat, laugh, object mildly on a point—
have we a  language in common? I suppose so,
somewhere, but not here. More than a guest 
but less than a brother.

I stay longer than I should. The emptiness
of potential, my needs almost inflaming my skin,
but I won’t request what I won’t be given. I thank
everyone, say goodnight, and leave.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Birth Pain (for Sam)

You summon nothing from the branches,
and the snowflakes that freeze the meadows
and make the juniper stoop
are dust on your sparrow wings.
No amulets or pebbles
that glow indignantly in the sun
or the ridged moon vibrating
signal your arrival.
You come evenly like a cloud
and flatter than water.
You egress and retract and push headlong
through the gully and down runnel
where you bob on the ripples like a twig.
You are waxed and indignant,
a ligature of insistence,
sapwood to my heartwood.
We couple nerves on the rocker
while the thistle we hear pricking the breeze
is thrashing its tentacles
and waving irritably.
Too delicate for its malevolence,
it seems to be saying that all origins
have substance and you no less than
the rivers displace the soil
and cleave boulders through which
the currents surge.


(This poem appears in the current issue (as of 
this writing) in Grasslimb (Vol. 13, No. 2)

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Canticle

I saw a small animal walking on a lake,
          a weasel, a skunk, a prairie dog, stirring the 
          surface, oblivious to the clouds, no thunder 
that morning, a glistening on the water as if the sun,
clawing its way through the shadows, were pausing 
          for a moment to catch its breath. Not an unusual day, 
nor miraculous, a Tuesday one could never identify 

or distinguish from another. Yet here, encountering
          an incarnation anticipated by worshipers on the bank,
          alert for the presence they prayed to on a Sunday, 
on a Saturday, shrunken to a flightless mammal scurrying 
over a surface it should have been drowning in, eliciting
          from them not an amen but a sense of resentment, 
          of insult, of foolishness that such a mystery, 

undoubtedly otherworldly, rather than spiriting their 
          significance upward, was actually reducing it—as if 
          deity were little more than a curio one happens upon in 
a park and that ultimately whitens and disappears in 
one’s consciousness, leaving no trace, no tabernacle, 
          no engraving, no cloth, merely an increment
of the ordinary, like a dish or a spoon, that few can find
          reverent without a manual or scroll.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, Elaine Schwager (Revised)

More for old post from Aug. 2007


August 3: Happy Birthday, Elaine.
I miss you terribly.

(Elaine died in a fire in her Manhattan home and I didn't find out about her death until a few weeks after. I couldn't understand why she wasn't answering my e-mails, and her voice was still speaking the greeting on her telephone. I was devastated when I learned—by accident—of her death.)

I still miss Elaine—painfully. She will never leave my mind. I just looked on her memorial Website called Elaine's Chair. What do you do when someone so special is taken away from you? From others, too, of course. But my pain is my pain. It's not lessened by others'. My favorite poem of hers, "Moving," ends:

"...I am going to another country
in the same room—the same room
in another city—clean white,
separate from what changes
and what's certain.
It is easier to go on foot
than to imagine being there.
When I get there,
my bags will be waiting. I have packed
in case I arrive."

from "Moving,"
I Want Your Chair,
Rattapallax Press.

Available on Amazon.