Bemused

Dedicated to my wife and best friend, Talma, without whom this book would have been highly unlikely

Copyright © 2016 by Michael Stone

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing.

Inquiries should be addressed to:

Mike Stone

email: mike.stone.email@gmail.com

Contents

Contents 3

Stepping Stones 6

Reflections of a Man on International Woman’s Day 6

Wounds 7

Love 7

Forward Darkness 8

Meeting of Souls 9

Brittle Leaves 10

Clarion 10

The Forest 11

Many a Year 12

The Grand Scheme of Things 13

The Howl 13

An Alternate Passover 14

A Moonlight Sonata 15

Every Man Is an Island 16

The Chocolate Shop 17

Arc de Triomphe 18

The Casino 19

A Life Unlived 20

Atlas Imagined 21

The Thing between Things 22

The Edge over which Your Heart Gazes 23

Truth and Lies 24

In His Crosshairs 25

Compulsions 26

Aurora Borealis 27

The Prophet 28

Your Choice 29

Time Out of Kilter 30

The Goodness of Snoring 31

Earth 2 31

Long Lost Friends 33

Not with a Whimper 34

The Emperor’s New Changes 35

Raw Material 36

Dead Poets Society 37

Hiding under My Desk 38

Voice of the Willow 39

The Irony of Plowshares 40

Count the Stars 41

Rosh HaShana 2016/5777 42

Hiding behind the Truth 43

Sioux Mother 44

Trembling Hands 45

On My Sister’s 65th Birthday 46

Yom Kippur 2016 47

Laying with Achlys 48

To My Wife on Her 70th Birthday 53

Beliefs 54

What If There Really Were 55

Time’s Gravity 56

Returning the Keys 56

Black as Night, Heavy as Death 57

Captive Audience 57

The Edifice of Jacob Whistler’s Life 58

A Riddle 60

These Are the Dominions 60

Haiku 61

North Star 61

East Wind 62

Peshmerga 63

The Way 64

The Black Bird’s Predilections 65

Come the Morrow 67

A Ghastly Zeitgeist 68

Ode on an American Urn 69

A True Believer 70

The Loveless Came 71

The Storytellers Didn’t Die 73

The Garbage Truck 74

Fog 75

Haiku 1 75

Haiku 2 75

Haiku 3 76

Childhood Memories 77

Call It Flying 78

When? 78

Blind 79

Saint Yellow’s Gate Revisited 79

A Question of Memory 80

When I Was a Kid 81

Wisdom 82

A Haiku for Hachiko 83

A Perfect Day 83

Contemplating Unthinkable Things 84

Holocaust Memories 85

Tables Turned 85

Retirement 87

23544 88

The Cost of Dreams 90

Her Columbus 92

A Heart and Its Seasons 94

A Poet’s Dog 95

The Meaning of Meaning 96

When a Poet 97

Yet Another Love Poem 99

A Dying Light 100

The Meaning of Life 101

Distance and Time 102

That which is Not 103

Stepping Stones

Raanana, February 18, 2016

The bridge to the future does not exist yet

And the bridge to the past is no longer

The stepping stones are created and destroyed

Under our feet,

And yet somehow

This is not a miracle.

Reflections of a Man on International Woman’s Day

Raanana, March 8, 2016

On this auspicious day of celebration

Of the International woman

I can’t help but wonder

What it’d be like to be said woman.

If I were a woman

Would I wonder what it’s like

To be a man?

Would I be best advised

To tap into my masculine side?

And if so

Knowing the answers to these questions

As I do

Would I stop wondering

Or keep on endlessly?

Wounds

Raanana, March 9, 2016

Why do we will the closure of our wounds

But strive to keep our eyes open?

Do we not close our eyes to feel more

When we are coupling?

Are not our wounds eyes with which to see

As we see more through our vulnerabilities?

Love

Raanana, March 16, 2016

What is love, they asked.

What is love, he thought a moment

Before he answered.

Love is like nothing,

As common as the water in our parched throats

As pervasive as the air that fills our lungs

Invisible as the daylight that makes all else visible

In that we only feel it

When it is gone.

Forward Darkness

Raanana, March 19, 2016

There is a place we all go

When it is time

That is between breaths

Between one thought and the next

One step and the next

And facing forward we see the darkness.

Meeting of Souls

Raanana, March 30, 2016

I have never met a soul

Who didn’t soar like an eagle

So high between the sun and the valley

His own shadow swooping down

And catching the shadow of death in his talons

Consuming it back to life

And laughing with eyes of distant majesty.

I have never met a soul

Who didn’t look through soul-less things

As though they were the shimmering

Of mirages over the desert heat.

I have never met a soul

Who didn’t laugh at his own weaknesses

But weep at those of others.

I have never met a soul

Who withheld love from another soul.

Brittle Leaves

Raanana, April 3, 2016

She sweeps the brittle leaves

And wipes the sweat from my brow

The autumn breeze.

Clarion

Raanana, April 4, 2016

First a tonic

Then a fourth

And then a sixth,

Clarion in the moonlit wind

A brother remembers.

The Forest

Raanana, April 9, 2016

The still dark sky trembles

In anticipation of sunrise.

The forest wakens from slumber

Somnolent dreams evaporate

In thin light

And suddenly everything is conscious.

Thoughts and their trajectories

Are impossible to know

The minds from whence they come

But they are palpable

As gnats zigzagging the cloying heat

That will be towards mid-day.

Many a Year

Raanana, April 10, 2016

Many a year

The old stone well’s not gushed up water

Not enough anyway for spiders or scorpions.

It just stares up blindly

At the cobalt sky

Like the empty socket of a desert skull.

Many a year

Since she and the child

Graced the silent time

With their humming and their busyness.

They could make a wooden face smile

And mirthless eyes dance

But you’d have to know what’s behind those eyes

To tell it.

Many a year

Since he used to say

A man is his family

Or he’s nothing

And I guess he was right.

He just stares off at nothing

As though it were the most interesting thing

In the world.

The Grand Scheme of Things

Raanana, April 11, 2016

The dark cloud squats heavily on the horizon

Undecided whether to drift slowly

Over our dusty fields with its fat bladder

Full of drought quenching rains

Or to drift up the coast a ways

To quench the thirst of our enemy’s fields.

O Lord, I know it makes no difference

In the grand scheme of things,

But I can’t help the fact

It would make all the difference in the world

To me.

The Howl

Raanana, April 12, 2016

Blessed are those who are taken before their time

For in the end of days

There is no wisdom

To guide us through the valley of the shadow.

There is no memory

To succor us when life has forgotten us.

There is only the unmasked howl

Pushing us into our graves.

An Alternate Passover

Raanana, April 22, 2016

If there had been only the possibility of something in this vast nothingness, dayenu;

If there had been only the Big Bang that created our universe of space, time, matter, and energy expanding ever outward, dayenu;

If there had been only the hydrogen-burning stars, the swirling galaxies, and the floating nebulae, dayenu;

If the sequence of fusion and collapse of the stars had only created the heavier elements, dayenu;

If the heavier elements of the stars had only spun off the orbiting planets, dayenu;

If the planets had only aggregated these heavier elements into complex molecules, dayenu;

If the complex molecules had only included organic molecules, dayenu;

If the organic molecules had found their ways only into pools of primordial soup, dayenu;

If the primordial soup had only been struck by lightning, accidentally creating prokaryotes, dayenu;

If the prokaryotes had mutated only into eukaryotes, dayenu;

If the eukaryotes had evolved only into all manner of life, including homo sapiens, dayenu;

If that life had only spread all over the earth, including the Garden of Eden, Aram, Canaan, Moab, and Cush, dayenu;

If only that life had not divided itself into us and them with separate countries, religions, and histories, dayenu;

If only that life had done that which furthers life, our world, and our universe rather than destroying them, dayenu;

Die dayenu, die dayenu, die dayenu, dayenu dayenu;

Die dayenu, die dayenu, die dayenu, dayenu dayenu.

A Moonlight Sonata

Raanana, April 24, 2016

The moon slid down through my open window

On a slippery ramp of pale light

Strangely silent for a child

Falling toward his father’s arms

But then the moon was not a child,

The child had grown older,

And I am just an old man

Rocking in the moonlight.

Words when they have no ears waiting for them

When they are not the words that wanted to be heard

Are swallowed by the vast silence

Like drowned sailors

But your words would have had my ears

And the world I’d have given to hear them.

My suitcase is in the trunk of the cab

You hug me hard

I kiss your forehead and tell you to write

But you’re too young to know the value of words,

You only know the value of grace and loveliness.

Every Man Is an Island

Raanana, May 28, 2016

Alas the words of Donne

No man is an island

His words are done.

No longer breathed or thought

For every man is an island

Universe whose stars spiral

Slowly without purpose

Nobody served by them

With a gravity that keeps meaning

The knell of our tolling bell

From crossing its horizons.

The Chocolate Shop

Max Brenner, Sarona, Tel Aviv, June 8, 2016

We live in little countries of love

With marshmallow boulders

And rivers of chocolate,

Gumdrop flowers and peppermint trees,

With borders between

Where we are loved

And where we are not,

With walls strong and high

To protect our innocence

And the gladness in our hearts.

But on the horizon

Are ships made of hatred

Sharp and deadly

Coming to pierce our hearts

And blood will flood our little countries

Drowning innocence and gladness.

And we will build ships of hatred

Sharp and deadly

Piercing their hearts

And blood will flood their countries of love

Drowning their innocence and gladness

And so forth and so on

Until we do not know any longer

Them from us or us from them

As it was before and always will be.

Arc de Triomphe

Raanana, June 11, 2016

You came to us from a land

Where the sun rose blood red

On a flimsy boat in angry seas

With prayers on your lips

Some freighter would come near you

Pity and rescue you

Like some message in a bottle

Cast among the waves.

Probably one did

And they lifted you and your brothers

And your father and mother

Out of that boat with only prayers

And God’s anger in its sails.

Weeks later they must have spit you out

Onto the salt-sprayed docks of Marseilles

In the gunmetal dawn drizzle

And your thin legs learned to walk again

On ungenerous pavement and concrete.

Perhaps that first night

And many nights later in Lyon

You huddled with your brothers for warmth

On thin beds of cardboard

Covered with newspaper blankets.

Today you jump across the Mediterranean

To read your poems in Gai Paris

To sign your thin volumes

And have tête-à-têtes with other poets

In a kind of arc de triomphe

But I, if I could, would swim upstream

Against the gushing rapids of time

Back to those chill nights in Lyon

To cover your shoulders with warmer blankets

And read you this poem of your future.

The Casino

Raanana, June 17, 2016

The heavily corrugated curtains were drawn closed

So we couldn’t see the light of day or dark of night.

I usually bet on the number of today’s date whatever it was.

The wheel of time spun around and around

Flying over red days and black, then tripping over them,

Until unable to decide between one day or the next,

And finally stopping on that fateful date.

One of us would say a prayer while the rest cursed their fate.

Today the missiles weren’t let fly from the ruins of the south

And neither did they fly from the cedars of the north.

Not one bus, sidewalk café, or class of school kids

Was blown to Kingdom Come.

But today we didn’t sit down to sign a treaty

Or a memorandum of our understanding

Of each other’s desperate longings

And neither were we honored in any other land.

Our coastal cities have not been flooded yet

And the last tree in the Amazon has not been felled.

There’s still some water left to drink and air to breathe

So the people at the roulette table pushed forward

Their piles of missiles, buses, and sidewalk cafes,

Their school kids, their treaties, and longings,

Their honor, their cities, their trees, their water and air

Into a pile in the table center, looking at it fearfully,

Greedily, and yet dumbly as gazes shifted to the wheel,

That flying, tripping, indecisive, and fateful wheel.

A Life Unlived

Raanana, June 22, 2016

I live in shadow unlived unmissed

Once I broke through church doors and

Stole the heart of a betrothed from her groom

We ran hand in hand boarding a bus

To who knows where

But moments later neither of us knew what to do

Or say to one another.

Once I rode off into the sunset

On a white stallion but then

We stopped, the horse and I,

Because there was nowhere to go

And I had no food or money.

Once I said goodbye to friends and relatives

Climbed aboard a ship and sailed

To a new world but it was the same world

And I was not in it.

I always take the road not taken

The Devil may care and to Hell with it all

All my gestures are but empty

And I look with envy on those

Who live their lives.

Atlas Imagined

Raanana, July 2, 2016

Sometimes

When the world becomes too heavy

I set it down beside me

For just a moment and

Refresh myself thinking that

Somewhere

Among the galaxies and stars

There must be a world where

It’s easier to create than destroy,

To enjoy than despise,

Because intelligence and curiosity

Are common as air

Because nothing contains them

And children have enough to eat

Because nobody eats more than he needs

If one would go hungry

Because nobody is happy if anyone suffers

Because a butterfly

Just because a butterfly on a beautiful spring day

And because anything’s possible

If there’s no good reason why not.

The Thing between Things

Raanana, July 8, 2016

Between black of night

And blue of dawn,

Last blue of dusk

And first black of night,

A paucity

Between last words

And ensuing silence,

Measureless silence

And then a word,

A thin crack between

Amniotic sleep and

First fiery breath,

Last ashen breath

And separation of

Body from soul,

There is something that was

But is no more

And yet will be

In being nothing.

The Edge over which Your Heart Gazes

Raanana, July 8, 2016

Should my eye love a thing of loveliness

An orchid down turning in its blush

A dog racing like a zephyr

To meet some twig’s trajectory

Your beauty and you, unconscious of it,

Should my ear love a fugue or a threnody

A silence only loneliness plumbs

Your voice, the words don’t matter,

Should my skin love the nakedness of water

The damp cooling dusk of Venus

Low on the horizon

Your soft skin against my calloused hand,

How shall my heart not follow

The edge over which your heart gazes?

Truth and Lies

Raanana, July 8, 2016

How can we know when words are spoken truly

And when they’re lies? the people asked him.

He closed his eyes a moment, gathered his answer

And opened his eyes

Saying look for the soul in the words.

Of all the animals that prey in our world

Only people can lie but the soul

The soul never lies

It dies if it does.

The truth flies out of one’s eyes

Like an eagle high above our world

Like a bugle’s clarion call

But a lie sneaks behind things to hide

Hoping you won’t see it with your eyes.

Only souls can see souls in words

So look for the soul in your own words

Before you look for it in others.

He closed his eyes and

When they opened again

The people were gone.

In His Crosshairs

Raanana, July 12, 2016

Camouflaged

You’d never notice

Even standing next to him

Waiting for the subject

To come into his crosshairs

His breathing slows

Til he becomes one

With target

Muscles balanced

Relaxed but tense

Barely pressed

Barely released

The subject dead

Before he entered his crosshairs

And suddenly alive

A poet’s phrase

Pierces

The heart.

Compulsions

Raanana, July 18, 2016

First it comes to you in dreams

And then as whispers in leaves of branches

Soft voices insistent but deniable

Other voices attended to

Then all voices scream

But God’s voice quiets others

With His commandments.

At night you go alone into the forest

Crouching down on hands and hind legs

Wolf-like here now and nothing else

The twig snaps

You turn, pounce, and

Teeth bloody, sated, sleep.

Birdsong births dim dawn

You wake up with reasonable yawns

Stretching to consciousness

And cover nakedness before eyes come.

At home again you have a cup

The news speaks comfortingly

Of other insanities before

You retrieve your briefcase.

Da Capo al Fine.

Aurora Borealis

Raanana, August 5, 2016

Darkness emanates from her room

Since she left, darkness and emptiness.

The emptiness walks the hallways

Entering this room and that room

Invisible like a ghost, taunting us

Because we cannot see her

And I tell her it’s not fair

To taunt us like that,

That we can’t see her since she left us.

Light used to emanate from her,

She’d walk around aurora borealis-like

Kicking back a high-heeled foot

Because she knew that I’d be watching,

And now I do not have the heart

To turn the light on.

The Prophet

Raanana, August 7, 2016

The prophet asked the people

Which of you thinks he can see?

A man in the crowd raised his hand

And the prophet asked him

What is it you think you see?

I see the reality of worlds

Worlds of reality

Worlds where nothing is created

And nothing destroyed

Where life is born to die

Worlds where one can’t dance

In two dance halls at once

And nothing’s possible

Since all is predetermined.

The prophet asked

Which of you is blind?

Another man had raised his hand

And the prophet asked him

What can you see?

I can’t see the worlds

The man before me could

But I see the possibility of worlds

Worlds of possibility

Worlds where everything’s created while nothing exists

But an endless fugue of dreams

A counterpoint of prayers where all is one and all at once.

The prophet sighed and said

The space between those worlds

Is as sacred as the impossibilities

Of spanning cross them

And the time between those worlds

Is as sacred as the silence of your skin

When she touched you

And the memory of it

Makes your breath stop still

And the stilled breath is a space-time

Tween life and death

When you’re not yet dead

But no longer living.

These are the broken bridges between worlds,

The possibilities between impossibilities.

Your Choice

Raanana, August 13, 2016

Old poet walks old dog

Young mother carries infant,

On which rest my eyes?

Time Out of Kilter

Raanana, August 16, 2016

Funny how time itself

Gets out of kilter

Like that summer day last month

When I looked out the front window

And saw the red flag up

On my roadside mailbox

At the end of the gravel driveway

So I put on my shirt

And walked out to see

What on earth could possibly arrive.

It was a postcard from you

Saying wish you were up here with me

And sealed with a kiss

The postmark said last new year

I didn’t know whether to smile or cry

Remembering that day last spring

My aunt from Oslo called

To say you’d died in

An accident.

The Goodness of Snoring

Raanana, August 24, 2016

She lies down

On the floor

Next to our bed

Wondering why

I would sleep so high

Off the ground

But when we hear the sounds

Of each other’s snoring

We know that life is good

And all’s right in the world.

Earth 2

Raanana, August 25, 2016

Pristine

The warm sands

Unbound

The hourglass of time

Reaching tentatively

Into lapping waters,

Deep blue

Water mirrors

Invisible sky,

The suns loom

Above the horizon,

Violet and cool

The jagged mountains

Desiccated

Against a desert sea,

Chiseled

The boulders

Laying still

Where they were created,

And crystalline

The starry night,

No plots

To murder

No language

To blaspheme or lie

No life

No death

Only hope and prayer

Not to be

Found

By Earth 1.

Long Lost Friends

Raanana, August 28, 2016

Sometimes

On a night like this

A comet streaks across the sky

And when it’s closest to us

Thousands of souls jump off

Parachuting down

Like whirligigs

Descending from a giant oak tree

Or like puffs of cottonseed

On a summer breeze

Til one soul lands in a crying baby

Another in a yipping pup

And another in a blood-red rose

And in a bare-barked sapling

And a lazy crick

And changeling clouds

And one day

The soul inside me saw an ocean wave

And recognized a long-lost friend.

Not with a Whimper

Raanana, September 10, 2016

At the end of time

Long after the final sigh

And the twinkle of little stars in the long night

Is finally snuffed out

How shall we sum up all the lives that were lived

The swimming, crawling, walking, flying lives

On all the worlds, the moons, and asteroids?

All the acts of love and loathing

All the acts of fear and villainy

All the acts of care and turning away

All the acts of hope and desperation

All the acts of courage and cowardice

All the stories, the poems, the sculptures, and paintings

All the chants and fugues and songs and symphonies

All the prayers answered and unanswered

All the thoughts and memories written and unwritten

All the beauty of perfection and imperfection

All the truths discovered and undiscovered

And all the meanings and purposes

That we’ve tried to attach to our lives

And what happens to them

How will we sum them

At the end of time?

Not with a rapture

Not with a bang

And not with a whimper

But with silence.

The Emperor’s New Changes

Raanana, September 11, 2016

A hundred thousand poets for change

That’s us.

That’s what we called ourselves last year

And the year before.

So they’ve stopped lynching the poets in Arabia?

They’ve stopped stoning the raped women in Kabul?

What about the mutilation of genitals of young girls?

So they’ve stopped burning down Black churches in Bama?

Stopped desecrating the lands of our Sioux brothers?

How about the carbon they’ve dumped in the atmosphere?

Did they stop that?

Do they believe now the earth is too warm to live on?

Are philosophers kings yet?

Are kings philosophers?

I don’t mean to be cynical

But it doesn’t seem like much has changed since last year.

We’ve read a few poems,

That’s all.

Come to think of it,

Have we really changed,

Except for getting a year older?

If that’s change

Then we better change change

So that it’s palpable

So that we can feed people with it

So that people can walk tall from it

So that people can protect themselves with it

So that people can make love to it

Until change is done changing

And the world is all the Republic we need.

Raw Material

Raanana, September 16, 2016

  1. In the mountains of the future dolphins will sculpt sweet succubae with the courage of their words.

  2. The Zeitgist will let loose the tigers in the streets of light.

  3. Old age is as impossible as an oak tree in the desert and this alarms the unseeing galaxies.

  4. Horses trample the dandelions and splash through the creek, the tang of their sweat in the wind, while the elves sensing danger run with their infants as in a dream.

  5. Eagles conceive in the sunburnt sky lusting after the coldness of goddesses.

  6. Frogs in the trees, the moon predicts the End of Days and their sight will pull ecstasy’s plow.

  7. The goddesses savor the carelessness of eagles flying over the palm trees dotting the sands of time.

  8. Take a chance on the obsessions of whippoorwills and the poems of incubi.

  9. Toads comfort the weeping willow while wistful clouds sleep in the fields.

  10. Dogs gather the wild berries and yartzeit stones along the path in their adventurous predictions.

Dead Poets Society

Raanana, September 17, 2016

Hello Mother.

Hello Son.

It’s been a while since we talked. I was twelve.

I was twenty-nine.

Now I’m sixty-nine.

It seems like only yesterday. Time flies when you are dead.

When I was young it seemed to crawl. Now it sprints.

You’ve grown so tall and handsome just as I imagined.

Mother I am not as tall as once I was. My hair is white now.

But are you a poet now? That’s the important thing.

I try to be for your sake. No one else thinks it’s needed.

Why did you call me? Aren’t the living enough to satisfy you?

Father passed away a while back. I wondered if you saw him?

Death is quite a large place. We probably missed each other.

No, the living aren’t enough to satisfy me. They seem banal.

You haven’t known banality until you’ve known death.

Do you remember when you said I’d be a poet?

When you can write what is and what is not in equal measure.

Why teach me to speak a language only dead can speak?

Then how would you speak to me when we meet?

How will I speak to the living if I don’t know their language?

Speak to them of what is now. Don’t sadden them with what was. Don’t frighten them with what will be. Remember.

Remember what?

Remember silence is better than truth.

Hiding under My Desk

Raanana, September 20, 2016

I remember back in fifty-six

When we were kids in school

Being taught to hide underneath my desk

During civil defense drills

To protect us from nuclear attack

Although I wondered why they’d attack a school

But our teacher told us we had a depot in town

And that kind of made sense

Although I didn’t know what a depot was

But I had my desk and I was good at hiding

So I was all set.

We didn’t know we were preparing for Death

But what did we know of Death then

Til I saw a documentary on television

About a small mushroom cloud far away

And a few minutes later there was a huge wind

That blew down houses and the skin off people.

I heard about the Rapture from our housekeeper

Which sounded like a nuclear attack.

My uncle moved to Australia that year

Probably thought it was another planet

Safe from A-bombs

It’s a wonder I survived.

Voice of the Willow

Raanana, September 22, 2016

Take a chance on the weeping willow

It said, the voice said.

Take a chance. I could not tell

Whose voice. Whose voice?

A wind whispered through the willow branches.

When I was small, somebody

Took a switch to me. I remember

The saying of it but not who said it.

There was only the willow,

The sad whippoorwill,

The invisible God and me.

That we can’t see Him

Isn’t that a proof of God’s invisibility?

It was obviously the willow.

The plaint of the sad whippoorwill

Hangs from the branches

Like some grey-faced Absalom,

God has been inaudible since He

Lost that bet with Lucifer

Over Job in the land of Oz,

And it couldn’t be me

Since I have no answers.

Take a chance on the weeping willow

Means listen to its weeping,

Let it merge with yours

You have only your sanity to lose.

The Irony of Plowshares

(in memory of Shimon Peres, 1923 – 2016)

Raanana, September 28, 2016

In the Middle East

If you want to prepare for peace

You must first prepare for war

Because peace must be waged

With the same seriousness of intent as war

And there are as many obstacles and pitfalls

On the path to peace as there are along the path to war.

A weak man cannot forge peace because

His weakness tempts his enemies to attack

And weak are the sabre rattlers

Hoping to frighten their enemies

With simulations of disproportionate force.

Their fears and uncertainties blind them

To the path of peace.

Only a strong man is confident and sees clearly.

He walks calmly along the path

Narrow as the razor’s edge.

The path to peace meanders through Gaza

Where we’ve been eyeless and

Our plow shares will be made out of swords,

Neither flowers

Nor gentle breezes.

Count the Stars

Raanana, October 1, 2016

Abraham was a simple man

Who knew nothing of brains and psychoanalysis

Who knew only life and death in the desert

Who heard a voice between his ears

And followed it wherever it led.

Had it been my voice

Squawked from a box

Behind some rocks

He might have thought

That I was God

Almighty

Though God knows I am not.

He almost killed his son Isaac on Mount Moriah

Because a voice commanded him

His hand was staid because

A vision of an angel came before his eyes

And the voice had told him

Look toward the heavens

And count the stars,

So shall your descendants be

But being a simple man

Greatly pleased by God’s promise

Understood not that those stars are dead

Ascending heavenward through chimneys,

And in an ideal world

Israel exists

But this is not an ideal world,

So the dead watch over us tonight

Vigilant but helpless.

Rosh HaShana 2016/5777

Raanana, October 2, 2016

Enough of idle dreams and wishes

Enough of sweetness, honey and apples.

The light does not come from East

And not from West,

But from inside us.

Peace will not come from one of us

But from all of us.

There is no time but marching forward

To futures where Abraham’s progeny

Sit together at a table

Sharing food and drink

And all men’s children

Play and grow in health

Uneducated in the ways of war

But wise in the paths of peace,

All men necessary on this march because

No one knows from whence come saviors,

What will be their color or creed,

What language they will speak,

Whether man, woman, child

Or stranger.

Hiding behind the Truth

Raanana, October 3, 2016

A poem is a wild thing

Untamable, it never tasted bit or reign,

A naked thing

You’d never take to church

Or have to Sunday dinner.

It uses an outlandish language

And it’s always true although

You’d be hard-pressed to say just how.

It’s true because

The poet with nowhere else to hide

Hides behind the truth,

But it’s the poet who is the wild thing

Untamable

The naked thing

Who cannot help but tell the truth

Hoping you won’t understand

But love him for outlandishness.

Sioux Mother

Raanana, October 7, 2016

Mother

One eye bright

Another eye dark

We wake inside you

And we sleep inside you

Our infants and old ones

Suckle your breast

Thousands and millions

With your love staining their lips

Your love pulls us to you gently

And lightly we tread your belly

But when you’re angry

We tremble

Yes, even the bravest trembles

Some turn away from you

Imagining invisible gods

Invisible nations

But we your first born

Will never turn away

Never desert you

Even when your bright eye

Swells with anger

We are small

The smallest of insects barely visible

But we will protect you

Or die trying.

Trembling Hands

Raanana, October 8, 2016

My hands,

I look at them now

Trembling

As they are wont to do

And I wonder why

They do,

My hands.

My father’s hands trembled too,

More toward the end,

How I loved them,

His hands.

I think maybe they know something I don’t know,

My hands,

That starlight trembles in the night

From distance and the coldness of it,

That strings on violins tremble

From Sheherazade’s beauty,

Or remind me how my vulnerability

Lets me listen to your heart beat.

O captain, my captain,

Perhaps your hand upon the wheel

Trembled before the port that was your destination.

On My Sister’s 65th Birthday

Raanana, October 11, 2016

You are my twin

Even though the earth flew around the sun

Like a moth around a flame

Four and a half times

Between our birthings,

But the truth is

We were conceived after birth

When our souls were mirrored in each other’s eyes

And since that time

Although our thoughts are different

As yin and yang can be,

Our feelings are so entwined

That when you are pierced

I bleed

And when you are loved

I feel as though I were held in love’s arms.

How insignificant the passing time?

But O how significant

The celebration of your being

This moment

And every other!

Yom Kippur 2016

Raanana, October 12, 2016

There is a time in such a space

That is not so much a quiet

As a subtle shift of noises

From harsh mechanical honkings,

Screechings, motor revvings,

Metal exhaust blats, jack hammers, and drills

Into softer bicycle tires, skateboards,

Scooters, and carriages,

Children laughing and shouting,

Young mothers telling their young children

Not to go too far,

Dogs barking, and neighbors gossiping,

From mechanical sounds into human sounds.

Time stretches out yawning

And time stretches into space

So that it seems almost enough for a people to live in.

The wars are somehow put off,

Pushed back behind darkened villages

That will one day explode into ululating billions

But that day is not today.

It’s not so much a day of atonement,

For what is done is done

And what will be will be,

But a kind of temporary ceasefire

Between ourselves and others

But especially between ourselves.

Laying with Achlys

Raanana, October 22, 2016

1.

She comes to you in the night

While you are dying

And says let’s play a game

But you say I don’t have time

I’m dying.

She says you have all the time

In the world

And it’s a simple game

The rules are thus:

We lie together in your bed

I tell you what makes me sad

You tell me what makes you sad

And if I can’t match your sadness

Against one of mine

I will take away your sadnesses

All of them

Changing them to fulfilled wishes

But if you can’t match my sadness

Against one of yours

I will take your life

With all its sadnesses

And make them my own.

How many times have you played this game?

I asked. She answered

With every mortal who’s ever died.

Let’s play I said

And she lay down beside me.

2.

She said I will start:

The sadness of having a perfect soul

In an imperfect body

In an imperfect world

In a perfect universe.

Now it’s your turn, she said to me.

3.

I said

The sadness of living in a world

Of such sensual beauty

And being forced to love just one thing

In my life

Knowing I will die before I love another.

4.

She said

The sadness of leading your people

Out of bondage and through the desert

Seeing the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah

And your people enter it without you.

5.

I said

The sadness of possessing a treasure

That is of no value

To anyone else,

Of speaking a language

That no one speaks.

6.

She said, that’s two sadnesses

You should take care

Not to waste them

When playing with me.

7.

I said, the sadness of obeying

God’s command

To sacrifice your son

And having the deadly arc of your knife-wielding hand

Stopped by an angel’s voice

Knowing your son will never forgive you.

8.

Achlys:

The sadness of finding yourself

A pig on the island of Aeaea

Thinking yourself a guest

At the table of Circe

Surrounded by nymphs

Who are disgusted by you.

9.

Me:

The sadness of being a spy

In a land among a people of irresistible beauty

Coming from a land and people

Of common ugliness.

10.

Achlys:

You played unfairly,

Yours was just another way

Of saying what I said.

Besides, this was not your Promised Land

And this was not your sadness.

11.

Me:

The sadness of knowing

That the most exquisite poem

Will be written on a distant world

By an alien hand

Aeons from now

And that I’ll never see it.

12.

Achlys:

The sadness of having been forced

To take part in another’s evil

By choosing whom to save

And whom to let walk

Into Death’s fowl-breathed maw

When you love them both equally.

13.

Me:

The sadness of saying goodbye to one’s parents

Before leaving on a mission

From which you know you won’t return

In their lifetimes.

14.

Achlys:

The sadness of a good man

Forced into the role of a miracle worker

Begged by good parents

To make their child walk again

Knowing he is not a miracle worker

And there are no miracles,

Only useless prayers

And banal lotteries.

15.

Me:

The sadness of finding out

That the one you first loved

Whom you thought did not reciprocate

Did love you unreservedly,

So your paths went separate ways

And now you both are old,

Entangled in separate bracken.

(Note: this poem is meant to go on and on with new verses added over time)

To My Wife on Her 70th Birthday

Raanana, December 4, 2016

Who would have thought

When you were born

Seventy years ago

Half a world away from where I’d be born

Four months later

That you’d be the best gift of my life?

Every morning when I wake up

And find you beside me,

You are the air I breath into my lungs,

I live in your eyes

When they dance in their silent joy

And they fill with tears

When your heart is too full,

You are by my side in every world

That I imagine.

Is this love that forges the two of us

Into a single being?

I loved you even before I knew you

When you were a little girl

Too serious for your years

And I’ll love you long after

The earth takes us back to our stars.

Beliefs

Raanana, December 4, 2016

That I know what my wife is feeling,

That my love will be enough to protect her

From the lovelessness around her,

That my particular being might have some worth

In the eye of the Grand Schemer of Things,

That the sun will climb over the eastern mountains tomorrow,

That the ground on which I walk

Is as solid as any reality,

These are small beliefs I think

That won’t hurt anyone else,

At least I don’t believe so.

But there are grander beliefs

That grow stronger

With every man and woman who believes them,

That only the grandest edifices

Can house them,

These beliefs,

Like who’s a chosen people

And who’s a virgin, an only son, or a true prophet,

Beliefs that hurt those who don’t believe them.

These are the beliefs I don’t believe

Are any good for anything

That’s not a building.

What If There Really Were

Raanana, December 9, 2016

What if there really were

Men and women

Who cared for their children

Those born and those as yet unborn,

Who respected the humanity

Of others as well as us

Strangers and enemies as ourselves?

What if humanity did not exclude

The animals and plants

And other things of this earth,

And loved the earth

Not as we love a food consuming it

Just to forget about our hunger

But as we love a mother

That suckles us when we are born

And caresses us when we die?

What if we really were men and women

And not just strands of genes

Crawling towards some senseless horizon

Whose only purpose was to replicate

So that some random trait or other

Would survive longer than some other genes?

If we were really men and women

We’d know our purpose

Without being told by some clueless prophet

And it’d be a grand purpose

That our earth could not live without.

Time’s Gravity

Raanana, December 14, 2016

The weeping willow weeps

In the rain and no one cares.

The lion’s roar is swallowed

In the thunder.

The eagle soaring high above

Looks lightning in its blinding eye

And time’s gravity pulls us so far apart

We no longer feel each other’s heart beat.

Returning the Keys

Raanana, December 18, 2016

There is but one wisdom worth knowing

In this single solitary life,

All else is mere knowledge,

Data, grist for the milling machines,

But that wisdom is not for us to know

Because it is hidden from us

In the moment of its revelation,

Given yet taken at the same time,

How to return the keys of breathing consciousness

And to whom when it is time.

Black as Night, Heavy as Death

Raanana, December 20, 2016

Black as night, heavy as death,

Plods silently, deliberately,

One foot raised above the ground,

Always only one foot,

Listening to the silence,

To the story it tells

In small voices,

Crouched ready to spring lithely

But come down heavy as death

And black as night,

Walks the panther.

Captive Audience

Raanana, December 21, 2016

I watch you through the cage bars,

Stupid creatures pointing, throwing popcorn,

Pulling faces and taunting

From distances you think are safe,

If you think at all.

We are a captive audience,

I am the captive

And you are the audience,

But sometimes I imagine

I am also the audience.

At night after the Parc Zoologique de Paris is closed,

My imagination slips through the bars,

Floods over the iron entrance gate,

Walks through the empty Avenue Daumesnil

To the Rue de Seine and looks through

The windows of the Alcazar

Where you sit daintily cutting a slice of meat

With your little finger poised heavenward

Your teeth too dull and weak to tear the flesh apart.

No wonder you’re afraid of me –

You know my spirit can’t be caged.

Only one of you imagines me

Walking in your empty streets at night

And he sits alone at a small table

By the smudged glass window

With a pen and dog-eared notebook,

Only he imagines me uncaged.

Toward dawn I tire of you and your empty streets.

I slip back over the iron gates

Through the bars and close myself

In the dreamless sleep of tigers burning bright.

The Edifice of Jacob Whistler’s Life

Raanana, December 31, 2016

The edifice of Jacob Whistler’s life was crumbling.

In earlier times when it was being built

It was a wonder to behold.

The architect was the best there ever was

He thought of everything that could be thought of

At that time.

The parts that should have been dark were as dark as could be

And the parts that should have been light were so light

You had to look away or be blinded by the beauty.

The comings and goings would take your breath away.

People came to stay awhile and forgot to leave

And those who didn’t come for want of wherewithal

Dreamed of coming at night.

It stretched up to the sky, lost among the clouds,

There were so many floors

The elevator seemed to climb forever.

There were rooms for every possible thing

A room for memories of everything you’d ever seen

A room for every thought you’d ever thought

And those you’d yet to think,

Room for love, everyone you’ve ever loved,

Everyone you’ll ever love,

And everyone you would have loved

If things had only been different,

And a room for sadness for those who felt more at home there.

Since that time the comings and goings were a little less

Until no one came at all

And the edifice was forgotten.

The maintenance was not maintained

Since no one came, no one cared.

The parts that should have been dark lightened up a little

And the parts that should have been light darkened.

There were cracks at the top and runnels of urine

At the bottom.

The elevator stopped working,

Good thing the rooms weren’t occupied.

When they opened a disco next door

That was the last straw

And Jacob Whistler’s shoulders shuddered

And slumped down to the street.

A Riddle

Raanana, January 3, 2017

What has more faces than Janus

Yet only one head?

What is worth more than gold

And less than dung?

What is more beautiful than God’s angels

Yet uglier than the Devil’s whores?

What has more wisdom than any book

And more ignorance than a toad in a boiling pot?

These Are the Dominions

Raanana, January 6, 2017

These are the dominions of life:

All manner of living things letting other things live

Things loving other things

Things giving things to other things

Things happy just to be things

A thing in itself, not needing anything else to be

All such things, whether they be human,

Animal, plant, alien, or cyborg.

And these are the dominions of death:

All manner of dead things killing other things

Things hating other things

Things robbing other things of their things

Things wanting only to be nothing

Things needing other things just to be.

Haiku

Raanana, January 6, 2017

Thunderous applause

So many raindrops smacking

My garden’s puddles.

North Star

Raanana, January 7, 2017

If I were to dream of being a butterfly

In my butterfly dream I’d dream

I was an eagle and in my eagle dream

I’d dream of flying to the sun

That warms my wings

And tells my shadow to run over

The valleys and mountains below me

And in my sun dream I’d dream of galaxies

Circling slowly over their prey

And swooping down on the North Star

Guiding me home from my dreams.

East Wind

Raanana, January 8, 2017

Ex oriente lux my ass.

When the wind blows in from the East

You know it’s up to no good

Especially when your sea is West of you.

They call it Hamsin

Blowed in from Arabia

Like one of them white horses

Carrying a Muslim rider

Wielding a scimitar in one hand

And the holy Quran in the other.

This damned parched throat of a country

If you don’t keep standing

The sand will bury you

Quick as looking at you.

There ain’t a place the sand can’t get to

The grit is in your mouth and eyes.

There ain’t much poetry ‘round here either

Maybe just a few growing between the rocks

Then just as quick some crazy poets

Come around and pick them.

They ought to have been protected by the State.

Peshmerga

Raanana, January 13, 2017

We never were children,

At least we didn’t call ourselves that.

That was an adult word

They used to call us with hands on hips

And school marm voices.

We called ourselves kids or hey you

Or worse. We’d play games

From morning til night.

There was one game I remember

Though for the life of me I can’t

Remember what we called it.

One kid would stand across the court,

His back to the other kids

Who’d stand stock still at the other end.

They’d creep or run forward

As stealthily as they could

And freeze before the kid would turn around.

If he caught you moving you’d be out

But if a kid reached the stander

And tapped him on the shoulder

The stander, well,

It’s kind of like we go through life

Thinking it goes on forever as we think

While sickness, age, and other happenings

Creep up on us

And tap us on the shoulder.

Reminds me of the Kurdish soldiers

Who call themselves the Peshmerga

Which means they’re dead men walking.

And I imagine when they leave their wives and children

In the sun-drenched morning

Surrounded by the craggy mountains

They hug and kiss them extra hard

And tell them that they love them

As though it were the last day of their lives

And I think that that’s the wisest thing to do.

The Way

Raanana, January 18, 2017

I suppose my early memories

Were mammary and amniotic whirlpools

But also flash of fatherhood

And I must have thought

If I thought at all

That this is life,

Nothing else is necessary.

The next memory would be

Nestled in the crook of Mama’s arm

Cheek pressed against full breast

Her hum of voice had calmed

My fear of breathing air,

My thought was this is a life

And so much is wanting.

The next thing I remember

Walking out of our apartment

Suitcase full of books and clothes,

Getting on an airplane to Chicago

And thinking this is my life.

Then I met you unexpectedly

Our nakedness had touched our souls

Love was all I dreamed it could be

There were words and there was silence

And I thought this is our life.

Now our children have their children

I hurl my body half a world and back

To see them all and think to myself

These are their lives.

And my parents will show me the way

That their parents showed them.

Our lives will pass into our thoughts

And thoughts will mingle with the dust.

The Black Bird’s Predilections

Raanana, January 20, 2017

Not ten paces from Daisy and me

A black bird eyed us with a wary stare,

Daisy sniffing tell-tale smells was unaware

But made me think of friends so far away

Who tilt their lances at towering fates

Girded only by our prayers

And if there is a God

He must be on vacation.

The black bird flew to a tree branch

And we continued on our way.

We hadn’t gotten too far when

I thought there must have only been

Enough room for reality in black bird’s head,

Just big enough for flying, worms, and loving,

Too small for hopes and prayers

For religion or for poetry

Let alone philosophy,

And all our big-headed wisdom

Is for the fictions of our phantasmagoria.

Far far away, across the sea,

An old man stands in rain

A few men and women listen to him speak.

The forgotten, he says, will be remembered

(the remembered will be forgotten, I think)

And they will make America great again

(do they really think they’ll flip time’s arrow

while it’s flying? The thinking universe thinks not).

Instead of stretching to stand a little taller

As people sometimes do in augurations,

People shrunk a bit inside themselves

No need to stretch to go back to the things you know.

Black bird fly away,

Fly away black bird.

Are you a portent of things future

Or things past?

Come the Morrow

Raanana, January 22, 2017

I hear it ere I see it,

The world comes in the

Guise of seven o’clock news.

One eye surmises it is morning,

The other confirms it.

Just to make sure the world exists

I shuffle to the window,

Turn a slat but slightly

And look out.

I listen to my wife’s breathing

And watch the quilt over her shoulder

Rise and fall so imperceptibly.

I walk into the bomb shelter

And hold my breath

Listening to Daisy snoring softly

And find her dark outline

In the darkness.

Met, are my conditions of existence,

Another day much like the one before

But God knows whether there will be

Another like it come the morrow.

A Ghastly Zeitgeist

Raanana, January 27, 2017 (Holocaust Remembrance Day)

A ghastly zeitgeist keens through our times

Gnarled olive trees snarling their barrenness

Hell’s fire is as cold as distant starlight

Existence mimics life but poorly

As survivors divide the ashes

Looking for gold fillings,

And we rub our eyes

Trying to see another reality.

Ode on an American Urn

Raanana, February 3, 2017

I try not to look back too much

Especially when I’m moving forward but

I can’t help myself.

They said they’d make a man of me

The Army, but instead they tried to kill me

My spirit, I mean.

They did their best to teach me the

Secret sauce of bayonet fighting but

I wasn’t any good at killing gooks.

I met a prostitute, name of Aida

South of the border

She said she’d make a man of me and

It’d only cost me ten dollars.

I liked her name, Aida.

My parents had a vinyl record of her

Which we’d listen to on Saturday.

You never know what good comes out of evil,

What evil comes from good.

I ended up making myself a man

When love took my hand

Held it to her fulsome belly

And love sprang forth again and again

Like some fountain of youth.

Verdi wrote the opera but I

Don’t like much opera but

Verdi’s good.

I’ve forgotten how it goes

And a lot more things I don’t remember

But a few things that I know for sure:

Beauty is youth,

Youth beauty.

A True Believer

Raanana, February 10, 2017

Although there is truth

I will never know it

Or be absolutely sure.

Although the world

And universe above and below

Do in fact exist

I will never perceive or conceive it.

Although all this is true

There is not enough evidence

To make of me a true believer

A skeptic or a cynic

An optimist or pessimist.

According to forensic science

Every criminal leaves a trail

Except for God and His magicians.

All this and less

As we move forward in our time.

The Loveless Came

Raanana, February 11, 2017

In the beginning was the world.

There always was a world

Since times forgotten.

It wasn’t much of a world

Since it couldn’t breathe

So it planted some trees

And the trees’ roots reached down

Deep into the loamy earth

And feeding on that love

Grew sky high and breathed a love so tender

It wrapped itself around the world.

The world loved the trees

For standing by their loyalty

And the world also promised its fealty.

The days and nights seemed endless

And the world wanted something more.

Unable to decide exactly what

It tried an endless number of things,

Things small and large with arms and legs

Some things had fins and some had wings

Until the days and nights shattered into small shards.

Then came the storytellers,

Strange things with big heads and frail bodies,

They told stories that made the world spin round

And stories that made time sometimes crawl

And sometimes fly,

Stories that made the future and past gargantuan,

Stories that made the world weep because

There was a greater love somewhere else.

Then when the world was not looking

The loveless came and killed the storytellers

Who were busy with their stories

And ate the things large and small,

Some with fins and some with wings,

Some with legs and arms,

And turned the night against the day

And day against the night.

They cut down all the trees

To make room for their minions

And the world took its last breath

In the long time of forgetting.

In the end was the world

But it wasn’t much of a world.

The Storytellers Didn’t Die

Raanana, February 15, 2017

But the storytellers didn’t die

Not all of them at least.

There was one named God

Who told a story of creation

In which he made a world

Quite different from our poor world

Day by day for six days and

He rested on the seventh

And each day was good except the third

Which was twice as good

And there were two trees in that world

A tree of life and one of knowledge

And there were two things with arms and legs

And they gave names to other things

That swam and crawled and flew

And they called the world Earth

And they called themselves the people.

The Garbage Truck

Raanana, February 17, 2017

I remember watching the garbage truck

Rolling majestically through our neighborhood

With two muscular men hanging off the business end

Ready to jump off and toss the contents

Of the trash cans lined up along the sidewalk

Into its mulching maw

And thinking that

That was the greatest job on God’s earth.

That was before I fell in love with Connie Cheney

In the third grade.

Now,

A million miles away and

Just as many years,

A crisply cold rain had finished falling

Before the sun rolled over the eastern mountains,

Runnels of rain water still coursed down the sidewalk,

The snails were making their silver ways

Slowly back to the still wet grasses,

And the colors and smells were crisp and sharp-edged.

Daisy takes her time inhaling

The parts of reality in which she’s interested.

She limps a bit these days

But life is still quite good to her

And I think let it be like this

As long as possible.

My furled umbrella clicks along the sidewalk

Like a blind man’s cane.

Suddenly I see a garbage truck

Rolling by with two young men

Hanging off the back,

Hopping off to toss the contents of some can in,

And wonder where’s the mind with which

I once viewed the truck and men

And what ever happened to Connie Cheney.

Fog

Raanana, February 27, 2017

Even
In the
Promised
Land
There is
Fog.

Haiku 1

Raanana, March 2, 2017

A small blood drop on
My uncle’s Samurai sword
Reflects the moon’s face.

Haiku 2

Raanana, March 3, 2017

City far away
The brook burbles, the fish swim,
And nothing happens.

Haiku 3

Raanana, March 4, 2017

A tear drop falls on
The old man’s mother’s death poem
Staining the brush strokes.

Childhood Memories

Raanana, March 4, 2017

What can I do ya for?
I want to report a stolen childhood.
Say again buddy?
I said I think somebody kidnapped my childhood.
That’s what I thought you said. Don’t you mean “child”?
No, I mean childhood.
When did you first notice?
Sometime around the time I was 65.
How old are you now?
Close to 70.
When do you think this happened?
Don’t rightly know. I guess somewhere between 5 and 9.
How did you happen to notice it?
Well, when I grew up
I stored my childhood in my head
But then I got to thinking
If something happens to me
My childhood will go up in smoke,
So I put pieces of it in other people’s heads,
My father, my mother, my little sister.
Sounds like a pretty good plan.
That’s what I thought too but my dad went underground
That’s too bad
Mom doesn’t remember things too well these days
Oh, I see
And my sister might not live forever,
Besides she’s got her own childhood to remember.
So where’s the crime? Show me the habeas corpus.
It just ain’t there any more,
It just ain’t there.

Call It Flying

Raanana, March 4, 2017

There is a saying
That which the gods can’t prevent,
They allow
And when they fall out of heaven
They call it flying
Even though there’s no parachute
Or safety net beneath them,
But where they crash
You can bet your stars
Is high above mere mortals’ heads.

When?

Raanana, March 11, 2017

When did my hands become so old
The deep lines in them
Going in every direction?
When did the young men and women
Stop hearing my voice
Their ears plugged into other voices
Chaotic in my ears?
And when did my eyes
Stop seeing the hope in things,
Seeing instead eyes dead of despair?

Top of Form

Blind

Raanana, March 17, 2017

We tap with our white canes
Only seconds into the future
Unable to see forward or behind,
We are the blind
Led by the blind.

Saint Yellow’s Gate Revisited

Raanana, March 24, 2017

Through light Saint Yellow’s gate I’ve fled

Leaves long fallen, trees long dead

To come full circle as she said

No meaning, only clues instead.

Clues pointing to eternity

Open graves to see through pity

Stilted men walk through the city

The death of rationality.

What say you now of dreams my friend?

Succubi make love pretend

Climax waking in the end

Nothing left to comprehend.

A Question of Memory

Raanana, March 24, 2017

I’ve often wondered how big is memory,

A single one, as small as small could be,

Would it fit inside a cell or maybe

Spread itself around infinitely.

Is it just a single thing, atomic,

In the Greek sense or does it decompose

Into component parts like voices, smells,

And sights, a cell for each attribute, say?

And if you sucked my memories into

Syringes, injecting them into your head,

Traversing your uniquely laid network,

Would they make sense to you, Greek or otherwise?

And how is it I see it all at once

When it takes so many words forced into

The proper sequence just so others can

Understand what I’ve just forgotten?

When I Was a Kid

Raanana, March 30, 2017

When I was a kid

Everyone round me was larger than life,

Only my sister and I were the size as life

Or maybe a little smaller

When I was a kid.

When I was a kid

Magic was the color of the rainbow

Tween green and blue,

It was time that lasted all summer

When we stayed at my grandma’s,

It was foregone conclusion

More certain than physics

When I was a kid.

When I was a kid

The girl across the street was a goddess,

The fate of the world rested on her careless glance

And feelings were far too big for words

When I was a kid.

When I was a kid

The past was gilded like summer

And the future was stark and wintry

Like our dying

When I was a kid.

When I was a kid

Dreaming of adulthood was so unlike

Dreaming of being a kid when I was an adult

That they never collided

In the vastness of dreaming

When I was a kid.

Wisdom

Raanana, April 4, 2017

And in the end

They’re right, you know,

The Hindus and the Buddhists:

All life is illusion

Cut adrift from the shores of reality

With a logic of its own

Like the shells on the beach

That my mother remembering

When she was a little girl

Picked up and put to her ear

And heard the sea in them.

This was the wisdom they talked about

Sitting around the fires

Toothless grins under a full moon,

A wisdom that is not a wisdom,

At all.

 

A Haiku for Hachiko

Raanana, April 5, 2017

Tokyo train station

Hachiko stands still as stone,

Not everyone knows.

 

A Perfect Day

Raanana, April 15, 2017

I felt the golden morning

Sunlight on my eyelids

Coming through the slanted slats

From a gentle southerly

As it usually did.

Mom knocked softly at the door

Saying “boker tov” as natural as could be

And added “got some pancakes cooking.

Daisy came in to get her massive head scritched,

Looked up at me and said,

You know that tumor removed from me?

The lab results came back benign.”

I walked downstairs and saw my Dad

Thumbing to Prince Valiant in the Sunday funnies.

It was such a perfect day

It made me only sad a bit to think

That one of us for sure

Had died and gone to heaven.

 

Contemplating Unthinkable Things

Raanana, April 16, 2017

And in the end of our days

When all else has betrayed us

Or fallen by the wayside

So that only our will to survive

Is left crawling forward

On bloody elbows and knees,

Time itself

Which is the consciousness of time

For us will cease to be,

Yet we know that time will go on for others

Until the last of us drops

And time becomes time forgotten,

Measureless time,

And matter

Which is the consciousness of matter

Is forgotten and measureless,

Will fall by the wayside or be betrayed

And it will have been of no consequence,

But what a story it could have told.

Holocaust Memories

Raanana, April 22, 2017

They pound impatiently on the door,

Not at all like the soft knocking

Of people who don’t want to disturb.

There is no need for politeness

When you have death in your guns and rifles.

There is no time to waste,

There are many doors that need pounding tonight,

No time to waste.

Death plays hide and seek with the children

In the floors, the walls, the ceilings,

In the streets, on the tracks, in the smokestacks,

Death solaces the old.

It will be denied,

But never betrayed.

Tables Turned

Raanana, April 23, 2017

They said this land is their land

As far as they could see,

So we went to where they couldn’t see us

But there were people there

Who said this land was their land

As far as they could see too.

We said to them

If you take all the lands

We will take the clouds

And they helped us go there

With their smokestacks,

But they told us the clouds belong to their angels.

We asked where else could we go

And they pointed at the ground under their jackboots.

We said we were here before you

And they said there was no history before them

For they were the victors,

History begins with the victors

And ends for the vanquished.

We had nowhere to go

And stood still where we were.

We said one of us would die this day

And one of us did die,

But it wasn’t us.

The few who were left came to us

And we told them this land is our land

As far as we can see,

So they went to where we couldn’t see them

But there were people there

Who said this land was their land

As far as they could see too.

They asked where else could they go

And we pointed at the ground under our jackboots.

They said they were here before us

And we said there was no history before us

For we are the victors,

History begins with the victors

And ends for the vanquished,

But history never begins

And it will never end.

Retirement

Raanana, April 30, 2017

We sat at the kitchen table

The two of us as we did most evenings

Her eyes tear-brimmed.

I reached over and touched her arm

Why? I asked although I knew.

She had retired just a few months back

But I had kept on working

Til now.

We’ll turn into a couple of old people

It’s the last chapter of our lives, she said.

Both of us turned around and looked at Daisy

Snoring softly from her mattress

As she does most days now.

Neither of us could imagine life without her

But I sensed my wife’s sadness

Spilling and spreading out towards me

And I promised her

Wherever we’d go

We’d go together hand in hand

Til time’s far-flung end.

23544

Raanana, May 1, 2017

1.

A gentle breeze whispers through my hair

The lavender and the honeysuckle

Make a lovely harmony

Despite that today is the day for memories

Of absent sons and daughters.

How can the day be so insensitive?

2.

Is it true that we’ve written

All that can be written of

Wars and sadness, of

Unimaginable acts of bravery,

Of unbounded grief?

I think not.

I think there will be songs of war,

Poems of grief,

That rend the heart

As it’s never been rent before,

And the child next door

Whom you scarcely know,

Too young and frivolous

To be called a man,

Will be known to you

As the soldier in a tank

Burning from a direct hit,

Laying down cover fire

For his comrades to escape

Until he himself is consumed

In the pyre of his tank.

3.

The siren sounds,

Even the small gray songbird

Stands still a moment on the branch

Before pecking at the shessik

Beneath its feet.

The Cost of Dreams

Raanana, June 6, 2017

When I was young

My dreams weren’t free

But they were cheaply bought

For a dollar or less

At a general store,

Red licorice, skyrocket ice cream,

Baseball cards, or a package of rubber soldiers.

Now a gray haired man stares back

At me from my mom’s mirror,

Clearing out the place for someone else

Since Mom’s gone to a nursing home

And Dad is, Dad was,

Laid to rest in a grassy knoll

Some years back.

A few LP records,

‘Long playing’ they were called,

But that was long ago

When we had a record player.

A flashlight, stamps, and quarters,

A bunch of greeting cards

For all occasions

Waiting for a chance to greet someone,

Unfathomable recipes,

Some books I’ve written, some I’ve read,

And my rubber soldiers.

Checking my bags on a scale

For the long trip home

Halfway round the world

I wonder how much weight my memories added

To what’s allowable.

Later, seemingly standing still atop a mountain of sound

Between meandering continents of cumulus

And dreaming constellations,

As it turned out,

My memories didn’t add that much.

Her Columbus

Raanana, June 12, 2017

There,

I’ve finally said it:

My Columbus.

You say you’ve come a long way

Just to see me

And now you have to go back home

To your wife and dog

But I’ve come a long way too:

I’ve come from my Columbus.

I hopped on a bus on Carpenter

Back in 1939 or 40

And came to spend a week or two

With you in your Columbus

At this place that’s not my home.

Sometimes I don’t know whether

I’m coming or going when

He tries to trick me into saying

There’s only one Columbus

But any fool can see that

Mama and Daddy’s alive and well

In my Columbus

And my sisters too,

Why, I was just talking to them this week

And at work they still depend on me

To read the ticker tapes to local rags.

You should have seen me

During Pearl Harbor

In my Columbus.

His Columbus is that nursing home

Where you have to ask permission

And the cemetery where my beloved family’s buried.

Who would want to live in your Columbus?

Not me,

No siree Bob!

Honestly

I try to follow you wither so ever thou goest

But when you cross that Stygian river

Into a reality that’s only big enough

For you and your youthful memories,

You must know you’ve left me back

On distant shores.

You’re my mother,

God knows I’ve tried my best to honor you,

Show you the respect that came so naturally

When I was a child

But time’s arrow seems to’ve stopped, turned around

And gone backwards so that

You’re the child

And I’m just an old man

Tired, o so tired, of the banalities of life

And the tricks it plays

As though every day were April Fools.

Yes Mom, your Columbus is far better

Than my Columbus

But what good is a reality

If you’re the only one who sees it?

And what good is mine

If there’s no rhyme or reason?

A Heart and Its Seasons

Raanana, June 20, 2017

These are the constellations of love:

A heart revolves around another heart

That, in its turn, revolves around yet another

In ever increasing orbits of unrequited love.

And these are the seasons of a heart:

Hope born of young breast when life is just beginning

And seems so eternal and everywhere you touch,

Love born of hope in the heat of ecstasy

Between two skins fused together

And enfolded within each other,

Hopelessness in the realization that love’s wings have melted

And you are falling falling falling,

And lovelessness which is the realization

There is nothing more than this

And the unending winter of the soul.

But as the earth rotates and revolves

Through Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter,

A heart goes through its seasons

And hope reawakens from its winter,

As long as you and I exist.

A Poet’s Dog

Raanana, June 28, 2017

Being a poet’s dog

Is not as easy as one might think.

I know dogs that only have to

Fetch sticks thrown in thoughtless arcs

By humans mired in their smartphones,

But I have to leap in arabesque

While my human writes it down.

When we sit together on a bench

I look off into the distance

And he calls my gaze philosophical.

Of course that lasts up until

I spot a cat or dog

Or something else of interest.

Don’t get me wrong,

I love to lay my head down on his lap

And get my nape scritched,

But sometimes, my much loved poet,

A dog is just a dog.

The Meaning of Meaning

Raanana, June 28, 2017

I never heard a tree ask

What is the meaning of trees,

Forests and acorns.

I never heard a stone ask

What is the meaning of stones,

Pebbles and boulders.

Only people seem to ask

Whether lives have any meaning

Whether what we do means anything

But nobody seems to ask

What we mean by meaning

And to whom it would mean something.

Death for instance has no meaning,

It is just another thing

That happens to all living things,

Haphazard and eternal.

Neither does life mean anything

In or of itself

Seeing how death is meaningless.

Meaning is only what I mean to you

And you to me,

And that is all I ever meant to say.

When a Poet

Raanana, June 30, 2017

When a poet wakes up in the morn

He puts his pants on

One leg then another,

And when he buys his milk and wants to pay

He stands in line between

The woman with her screaming kids

And the foreign workers,

But when the poet looks up at clouds

Or the night-time constellations,

Orion’s scabbard or Cassiopeia’s tilted throne,

He sees encyclopedias never writ nor read

By the likes of you or me,

And when he loves,

It’s Trojan Paris

Who’s faced ten thousand ships

And went to war for naught but one.

Yet Another Love Poem

Raanana, July 3, 2017

I love the way the crickets throw their voices at night

So it seems the stars themselves are tisk-tisking,

I love the way old trees gnarl their bark

Into the most interesting shapes in the moonlight,

And I love the way Daisy grows older and younger

Depending on whichever way she’s going through time.

I’ve been told, I know, by others

That I shouldn’t spread love so thin,

It’s a normal thing to love my wife and family

Which I do, God knows I do,

But loving dogs and trees

And stellar cricket voices

Just ain’t normal.

So I say to them, though silently, that

Love is not a small pie that’s not big enough

To go around,

No, it’s more like a flame you carry around

In your heart

That you should never let go out

No matter where or when you are

Because you might never get it lit again,

And having love in my heart

While walking Daisy among the trees and crickets

Only serves to keep the hearth fires going.

A Dying Light

Raanana, July 14, 2017

Once when your light was at its zenith

We could see the possibilities of poetry

And now, and now,

Your light is swollen and bloodred

As it sinks below the crags of the far horizon

We would not venture to explore,

But even in the dying of your light

And the cold night that it portends,

You show us the way we all must tread

Through dreaded mindscape

That leads us lemminglike to fall free

Through the nothingness of nonexistence.

Though you would bid me follow you

Showing me the beauty here

Or the danger there,

You can only point at them

For words have deserted you,

Adjectives no longer describe

Nouns no longer are

Verbs no longer act,

And time itself was ever only deceit.

The Meaning of Life

Raanana, July 15, 2017

On banal walks with Daisy

I’m always looking out for snakes and scorpions

‘Cause banal can change to murderous

Faster than an eyeblink in this cruel country.

Daisy saw her first, of course,

The cat had a bird between her teeth

I thought he was dead at first

But then I saw his eyes were blinking,

The other cats were looking at her too

Wondering what she was going to do,

When Daisy lunged at the cat with bird

But I jerked her back to me

Not wanting her to taste blood,

The cat’s or her own,

And I could have sworn those blinking eyes

Were wondering whether

This was the meaning of life

Or something else.

Distance and Time

Raanana, July 19, 2017

In the time of the dying light

When the distant sun dallies

Over the western hills,

Its radiant fingers fondling the upper slopes

Like expectant breasts to its warm touch,

The shadows are long

Like our conversations,

Careful not to say too much

Yet desirous that they not end.

In the manicured garden

The shadow of the weeping willow by the creek

Reaches almost to our lawn chairs

And black petals from a nearby tree

Assume the colors of the dusk

As we sip our scotches silently,

One contemplating the distance he has come

And the other the time he has left.

The untalked about thing between us

Knows in an alien sort of way

That, if not the last word,

It will have the silence.

That which is Not

Raanana, July 24, 2017

1.

The space where you were is still there

Though you are no longer,

The words that you spoke are still spoken

Though they are no longer heard,

The path you walked is still walked

Though you have long gone to other paths.

That which is is that which is not

And that which is not is all that is left.

2.

I become a metaphor for other things

Which becomes a memory in your mind

As you have become a memory in my mind

And we all have become in each others’ minds.

3.

Ghosts who never were

Walk beside ghosts who were,

So many it is hard to tell

One from the other,

In the empty streets.

4.

The thinker is a thought

Of his own thinking

In this whirligig of noumena.