Final Acts of Grace

Excerpt from 3,000 word story
Published at www.twjmag.com
November, 2015

Margaret awoke feeling uncomfortable. The morning sun lit the bedroom window and hurt her eyes even before she fully opened them.  As she rose from her bed her head did not feel quite right. Not dizzy, but not steady either.

Franklin’s side of the bed was empty. The clock said seven–o-nine. Where on earth was he, this early?

She went to the bathroom and avoided looking into the mirror as she washed her face and hands. She headed downstairs to find him before she remembered he had mentioned a morning appointment with someone.  

Just as well, she thought, and put on the coffee maker.

She did not want to read the morning paper Franklin had left on the table, the war news was much too upsetting. She tossed it into the waste can, and stood at the window, looking out, as she waited for the coffee to brew. 

Another summer morning, with the backyard sunlit and full of color. The children’s swing set stood off to the right side of the yard, still bright red, still there, even though they had long ago outgrown it. She briefly thought about Chrissie and Terry, admitting to herself she wasn’t really missing them; rather, she was grateful they were occupied and happy at summer camp. Today she would send them cards and cookies.

Of course it was Dennis who caught at her heart, her precious son, now a soldier, now so far away from her. Margaret stared out at the other side of the backyard, where her garden was coming into bloom. The green buds of yesterday had opened into pink and white roses. Her eyes misted over at their beauty. That he wasn’t here to see them brought forth her tears. 

After a few minutes she turned away from the window. She held a wet paper towel to her eyes for a long moment. She willed herself to not think back, to not dwell on the fact that her son had been taken away. She knew she should do her best to face the day. The coffee was brewed. 

She poured herself a cup, drank it, and left the kitchen. She would dress, and go out there, to weed in the garden, to be near the roses.

 

late in 2017

 

 

dull motes and insects

flew in light beams

their dun color

lit up to gold

achieved place

on the color wheel;

 

reason made

for us all:

a color wheel

a clock

etiquette

navigation

sign language

robots

 

and still

december blows

cold  black

crows flap dip

fill the dusky sky

steps falter and love slips

away in dark, dark drifts.

 

 

 


 

Correctness Exercise or Advice to Self

for Michael Wurster

Smile and accept the invading horde
the chitchat that’s singsongy and babbly
& right on your own front stoop.

You better get used to it and act like it’s fine
or be deemed braindead as a carp or at least full
of disgusting undemocratic crap which will admittedly
shame you, thus forcing you to sham it up for the neighbors.

No use considering what else can be done it’s a bit
like faking an orgasm or congratulating the mother
of the kid who bested your kid in the spelling bee.

Do it and do it over again and forever and stay focused
on the punctuations of excellent moments
brought to you by Cole Porter, Woody Allen, savage
wild Sauvignon grapes, your beautiful grandchild.

 


 

A Brother Writes His Blessings

Martin, a contemplative Jew,
follows the example of Elijah
into a cave of solitude
far from the hustle and bustle
of existence to hear
the still small voice:

Just me and peace
no other faces;
no sweat on palms
no winking eyes;
deep release from lies: just me.

He has turned from the earthquake,
the wind, and the city;
they have too long obscured
the call to slip to a deeper level:

Just me and prayer:
a book of pages
to turn like leaves;
holy the tree whose core
has turned to pages.

He will live
in this dusky place
without distraction
from voices of humans
or chirping of birds.

No sound no praise
no nether days; just this place
this summer cave
to savor.

At once bonded
and flung free
he will stay to chant,
to sway, to feast on psalms
and sweet conundrums.

 


 

SUMMER, 2015

A yellow­-naped
Amazon parrot called
Princess Yellowfeather sings
“Everything Is Awesome,”
at Birds On Safari,
a pet store in Stuart, Florida.
Almost every day.

I sent this information
by way of a Flixxy video
to my grandson
who is very smart
and talented, and who
is not easily amused.

I am deeply engaged in keeping
myself relevant
to him as he is just
beginning adolescence
and we all know
how frightful that is
as well as how disinterested
in grandparents children
of this age universally are.

 


 

Singles File

Fat Cheryl once predicted
I would soon meet someone
“rich...or named Rich,
...I’m sure of it.”

She also often stressed
the possibilities of men
with short names. “I see
a Lou, or Ed or Hal...”

Might this apply to Ray?

I wondered, as water
poured on our heads,
two persons of opposite
gender, sharing steam plus
a bar of French milled soap.

Three weeks later, when Ray
called back claiming he left
his Nike socks I decided
just to laugh and play it out.

Cheryl suffered from asthma
and only did simple manicures,
no gels or wraps, no pedicures.
I did love her and her predictions.

 


 

gloss and chaos

the fire drills the glue the iron gray stairwells
the mimeographs of poems smeared blue with tears
you and i hiding in the back of class aware
of what terror could occur right there with a pointer
or downtown with the pumped­up weekend marchers
the rag­tag adults we wanted so to be
but came to see as ruthless in their grasp
hobbled by the hammers of their conceit

now alive in a season of full captivity
thursdays noted for fat newspapers
fatter with extra sections that will
never address the iceblock cold

nerves stretched tight as wire
so much effort to hold bitterness at bay
in the silence that crushes any thought
that a song we loved might still somehow matter

 


 

This Summer Moment, 2015

for Donald Featherstone

Saint James Street
At mid­afternoon.
The sound of traffic.
Wheeling, humming.

A window box
Of orange roses
Outer petals gone pale
In full sunlight.

Down on Fifth
Dangerous numbers
Staggering toe to toe
Bumper to bumper
Along the broken street.

They must work
To collect the fat
To stake the flag
Up the golden pole.
To drag every living thing
From the swift gray river.

The Chinese doctor
Who never speaks
Pulls into the spotty shade
Of his driveway.

CNN reports the father
Of the pink flamingo
Has died.

No more white ice cream
Trucks, very few honey bees.
No more starlit hay rides
Or other glowing events.

 


 

staying home from junior high

move your lips but never sing
do not throw others off key

stand still and hold the flag
try not to look pathetic

try hard not to hear them giggle
just plan tomorrow

to rub your head again on the radiator
fake sickness trick mummy

stay home watch a thousand hours
of television or a thousand hours

of wetness out the window
storm sends ripples across the puddles
rock­a­byes the baby boy & girl worms

mrs litman runs down the street
of blowing leaves she looks exactly like
faye emerson that bright blonde chignon

her topper coat flying like a tail wind got under it
streaking through the rain in high heels

to the big dark silhouette in a fedora hat
waiting on the corner of dallas ave

in a silver­finned cadillac
every thursday mummy nods & nods

ok that’s enough get yourself in bed

 


 

Truth in Bodies

Not easy to find
A simple truth ­­­— say:
People love their children
But no, some don’t; some
Slap and shake and otherwise
Abuse their own but truly less
So their pet dogs, cats, or fish.
And the world seems to work
Ateeter and atotter between terror first
As in what North Korea just announced
Details at eleven Right after the socko
Used car deal, the hemmorhoid treatment, the vaginal spray...

Aggh! Are you truly sick enough to scream Enough?!

Boomerang to booze!
Drown every moment!
Filter noon into happy hour night
And the news loop goes on
And every frightened lemming slows down
At the entrance to the tunnel even though the sign
Says maintain speed.

The Nazis performed truly heinous deeds.
Think what they did with bodies: all the murdered dead,
The barely alive with blue numerals branded into their flesh.

For our pleasure, pure sport & joy, plus millions, bodies get trained: hammered      in punishment,
pounded to breakage.

Want to seek more truth?
Think of the common burden for today’s youth:
For those healthy budding bodies, that supple skin­­— 
will it be ink or zinc or both—?
Tattoo or pierce?
Truth be told, they must, and they will, decide. 

 


 

Keeping

pink sugar
pliable newborn
perfect pump
eager to be primed

steady now
cells blush scarlet
separate & synchronize
                         so grandly

                         expanding into elation
                         joy-rides just beginning

tempo builds
accelerates
time & tides
gather & turn
                        surge on
                        without notice or pity

slowly but certainly
spaces start shrinking
until
uncertain walls
begin bit by bit
to harden
                        & brittleness
                        becomes breakage

challenge: continuation
courage to keep
despite disillusion,
to dare address
                        another dawnlit window,
                        the dark nightload of dreams.

(From Uppagus)

 


 

 HERE'S A DEPARTURE:  5 HAIKU/SENYRU POEMS

table # 6
robinson
stuffed chicken
angel food cake

please listen
our options
have changed

20th Century
man on the moon
before wheels
on luggage

words for
the powerful
start with st
strong stern
steady staunch

words for
light that flickers
start with gl
gleam glisten
glitter glow

 


 

Desperados

1.

At first, when a lack of rain came upon us
we paid scant attention.
We had just met Tom and fair Ann.
We meant to water the garden more often;
mentioned it, twice, on the Fourth of July.

2.

Summer wore on. For want of water
the wrens flew away.
You decided to go to the Cape,
a shipwright’s job might be available.
The garden had drifted dry as ash,
the vines withered to brown.
We had let it all go.

3.

I wore a party dress, lavender and gold,
when we met, accidentally,
next year in September.
You reminded me of Barney Moll,
the copyist of Renoir
who rendered dresses like mine
in bold blots of color.

4.

Our lovemaking that afternoon
happened with purpose, with weight;
we held on as true as we could,
as if there were still chances:
one more grand summer storm,
green lightening,
a murderous downpour of rain.

(A version of this poem was awarded "Honorable Mention" in the 2014 Reuben Rose Competition, which is part of the Voices Israel Anthology, 2014)

 


 

Query Poem

timing is not
everything
nothing is
everything—
in the eye
of a housefly
are four thousand
glittering little eyes;
infinite networks
of thread connect
the silk
of gutted worms;
query: will
something
always
birth
the brilliance
that turns a mud ditch
to crystal,
re-assembles blueness,
the vast blinding
palette of blue....? 

 


 

To the Yellow Umbrella She Lumbers Retreat

the summer heat
summer’s numb scorch
old glider on the porch
the green swing slider
suggests the days number
makes her wonder who stole the snow
was there just a glory show of snow....?

yet the current summer
another deceiver if not a liar
loosens such beauty
lavender and rose the sparkle on water
warmth that cools
in bounty breezes
lifts the fleece of lambs & clouds
all of this is joy
who can laugh to see it
flee who cares who loves
so much and still gets fooled
each season into belief and prayers

that intensify as the days
pile on the snake called time
crawls in and in turns gold
to autumn ash as dirt burrows
in the cold grit the snow that comes

grind in grind on push back
thought she may there is no concern returned
the only answer always bald always hollow.

 


 

Ah, Faith!

Orphee’s agony coincides
in mystery in irony in truth
with the Satmar and Lubovitch—
breathless Jews in black frock coats
twisting through the filthy
hot-baked streets of Crown Heights,
their wives running behind
dripping sweat under fashion wigs—
pulling gaggles of kinder
past the Kundalini Yogis of Soho
whose gleaming eyes flicker
whose breath comes
in deep gasps of ecstasy
rocking chanting davening swaying
all of them rooted to the earth
like ancient conifers
certain as rain in spring
that every human hair is counted
every snowflake a blessed original
as the universe spins on palpably
innocent, athrob and unfolding
exactly as it is meant to.

(Appeared  on Poetry Super Highway,  2014 Top Ten Winner)

 


 

Wakeful

Forgive her: she is afraid to be
near the spot of brain that bled so;
scared to feel the scab let go,
open up, pour forth, to see
the pool, a bloody flood, again, said she.

Bear up! Bear up! she heard the doctor say.
But half-blunderer, she would hide away,
half-coward, reluctant to know
the feel of risky edges.

She fears the Oberhaupt of Thieves,
the crimson tapestry he weaves
the night terror that he dredges.

Deep sleep might offer sweet release,
But what he comes and steals is peace.

(Appeared  on Poetry Super Highway, Holocaust Issue)

 


 

Keeping

pink sugar
pliable newborn
perfect pump
eager to be primed

steady now
cells blush scarlet
separate & synchronize
                          so grandly

                          expanding into elation
                          joy-rides just beginning

tempo builds
accecelerates
time & tides
gather & turn
                           surge on
                           without notice or pity

slowly but certainly
spaces start shrinking
until
uncertain walls
begin bit by bit
to harden
                         & brittleness
                         becomes breakage

challenge: continuation
courage to keep
despite disillusion,
to dare address
                          another dawnlit window,
                          the dark nightload of dreams.

(Forthcoming in Uppagus)

 


 

Losing A Jewel

windblown hair
red lipstick espadrilles
all eyes all limber all slender
blonde days in Jaffa
unclutchable as quicksilver:
tears, butter, water,
impossible to hold
except in the deep
gray folds of memory
look there
underneath thin yellowed skin
a winking eye
the last deep russet gleam
the quick hand
skims dips
wills it to stay
it will spill
impossible to keep
impossible to walk away

(Appeared in Third Wednesday

 


 

NO REST

Deep within one gray
fold of memory
near the dotted
wing of owlet,
the country day
of fawn,
the orchard—
a synapse
skims dips
but does not
summon up your body;
impossible to
assemble
parts as whole;
ironic bulges
stand apart
as does your face,
eyes, complexion,
pouty lips
that kissed too small
and talked too large
remain separate
but keep on
calling
urging
swallowing.

(Appeared in The Brentwood Anthology)

 


 

When I Loved You

Dream a bend in the mind
a boomerang that hits back
with unimaginable evidence
every other brain must reject:
the road is the sea
harvest crops in spring
your homeland is not yours
death is birth;

yet my witless soul insists
you were not reborn a son
of ordinary folk—
how strange only one
focused eye can see
the moon ablaze at midday
the owl awake at dawn
or you ascending
the purple throne
of Hebrew kings:
only my eye, my prince.

(Appeared in Rune)

 


 

Genius

Breathing short and frowning
victim and survivor
you hint at sins
dark as clotted blood
secrets lurid as tabloid lies.
You cannot describe
the blows that fell upon you but:
this is why
I am as I am

you say with soft wet eyes
weeping within words
dying a little
with every reminiscence,
but beautiful to me;
like rare white sparrows
flying through cloud-light
your brilliant hands
stretch upward
working hard to sculpt
a finer truth,
choosing to go on.

(Appeared in Voices Israel)

 


 

Pale Blue Light

She feels
a heaviness
on her chest
burdensome as
the memory
of bulky woolens
forced on her
by Mother
even as the sun
melted crystalline
snowy days
into seepage
down the Slopes
so long ago;
curious how
pale spring
light in afternoon
bears back
that weight,
that gloom,
unchanged.

(Appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

 


 

Tikkun Olam*

Woven with care
Red silk ribbon
Shot through with gold
To shimmer in starlight—

The soft fabric spoke
Of being ripped,
Her threads pulled apart
Her heart frayed
Into trailings no
Gentlewoman’s needle
Could ever repair—

Yet each of them
Tried, wielding silver
Tools, stretching slender
Fingers, gathering, pricking—
Yet never nimble enough
To knit the tears,
To stop the bloody flood—

Strong but not enough
To let it be, to walk away.

*Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for ‘repair the world’

(Appeared in Lillipoh)

 


 

Roses

The simple rose,
born into radiance,
never hides
nor eludes her admirers;
not lulled
by thorn’s protection
she doesn’t even try;
dazzling, disarming,
she bursts forth
in briefest beauty
petals blushing
fuschia pink, carmine blood.

Rita Rose flashes
across dream-scapes,
supple in glitter
real enough
for old men lost,
long-gone from Hope,
for young men hot,
far-gone from Good Intent.
She undulates in reddest silk,
parts carmine lips,
flutters violet lids,
bends deeply into the camera,
rewards every bit of love she can.

(Appeared in Lummox)

 


 

Yad Vashem*

Here bloom green
carob trees
sweet with spring;
the righteous few
are not forgotten
in Our Garden.
Silence pours
from leaf and vine.

Note the smooth
Stone shapes
amid the blossoms:
the sculpted mother's
arms around
her baby:
Tenderness,
the first remembrance
of the human artist.

Beyond the blossoms
his last remembrance,
Darkness:
the dying ashes, the
tiny flames that
burn eternal
within the concrete
and basalt.

* Yad Vashem is the name of the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem

(Appeared in Midstream Magazine, 1993; Poetica Magazine, 2003.
Anthologized: Crossing Limits, Crossing Limits Press, 1996; House of Israel, Balboa Park, CA “Fused Exhibition” 2014)

 


 

What Joy There Was

Young or old, skin serves:
borders keep innards in place.
Young or old, we believe wings
encompass universal detritus:
car keys, single socks, diamonds,
Erno’s cracked limbs,
his woman’s fat hips,
her mother’s sagging knees,
the dogwood’s budding branches.
We believe all is counted.
Yet Erno’s gang is not much involved—
it goes on with or without them.
The waters ripple and flow with fish
and even if reproduction slows in Europe,
it does not halt. Therefore
the gang chooses hard
to remember what joy there was
in Miami, the Christmas of 68,
they watched, with their little boy,
the plastic pine tree change
from bright red to white to cobalt blue
then, at once, to all the glory colors.

(Appeared in Uppagus)

 


 

Pittsburgh, 1985

H. saw a rat
In the back
Of Rosenbloom’s Bakery
Where she worked
The summer she was fifteen.
It was gray and huge
And the first of its kind
She ever met.
Naturally she screamed
And dropped a tray
Of fresh baked kichel.
Also working at the bakery
was an extremely old countess
Way down on her luck
Here in America.
Among the family stories
We tell we mention
This as the summer
Of the rat and the countess.
An adventure from
The bright green time
of becoming for H
which certainly
seemed a beginning
but like all starts
are often false and lead
down ways that
smoothly rise
and unexpectedly fall
but always end.

(Appeared in Third Wednesday)

 


 

At Sea Shell Island

the sky turned milky opalescent
and lost distinction from the great sea beneath it.

They shared the same pearled translucence
through which showed only a bare hint
of the shore at Sea Shell Island,

the line between sky and water, one from the other.

And somehow I thought of you,
dark edge turned to light and song,
all you meant to me.
Now lost, and closed, as these things go.

What after all is two together
in this dance of life
I only knew with you,

a calm and completeness
that otherwise eludes.

(Appeared in The Brentwood Anthology

 


 

After Words

When this curious world wearies
of me, and me of it, if an eerie tunnel

aflow with muck & a filthy scow
happens to beckon me

though chill-edged and pounding with fear
I will remember it & I may go for it,

get on board as engines groan in reverse,
sail back through the blackness—

for I would gladly die to eat lunch
with my father at Marky’s in the Strip,

& I want to take another crack at big
blond Mary Gordan even though

I know she will wield after everyone
with her fat arms and evil hockey stick;

I want the greasy delicious egg rolls
from Kelly Street on Friday night

& to look up at giants who smoke two packs a day
& never lock their doors & never leave me.

We all sit in the Roadmaster, watch the burning hills
& the sky lit red with fire & then we are riding home.

Time is weird, suspended;
there’s no boat back & I don’t care-

a June dusk deepens from purple blue to
starlit as the roof opens, the operetta begins:

I keep my eyes open. I listen. Quixote sings his dream,
strings quiver, they weep, and I stay put.   


late in 2017

  

dull motes and insects

flew in light beams

their dun color

lit up to gold

achieved place

on the color wheel;

 

reason made

for us all:

a color wheel

a clock

etiquette

navigation

sign language

robots

 

and still

december blows

cold  black

crows flap dip

fill the dusky sky

steps falter and love slips

away in dark, dark drifts.