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.
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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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Raanana, April 3, 2016
She sweeps the brittle leaves
And wipes the sweat from my brow
The autumn breeze.
Raanana, April 4, 2016
First a tonic
Then a fourth
And then a sixth,
Clarion in the moonlit wind
A brother remembers.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raanana, July 2, 2016
When the world becomes too heavy
I set it down beside me
For just a moment and
Refresh myself thinking that
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.
Raanana, July 8, 2016
Between black of night
And blue of dawn,
Last blue of dusk
And first black of night,
Between last words
And ensuing 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.
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?
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.
Raanana, July 12, 2016
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
Relaxed but tense
The subject dead
Before he entered his crosshairs
And suddenly alive
A poet’s phrase
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.
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.
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.
Raanana, August 13, 2016
Old poet walks old dog
Young mother carries infant,
On which rest my eyes?
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
Raanana, August 24, 2016
She lies down
On the floor
Next to our bed
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.
Raanana, August 25, 2016
The warm sands
The hourglass of time
Into lapping waters,
The suns loom
Above the horizon,
Violet and cool
The jagged mountains
Against a desert sea,
Where they were created,
The starry night,
To blaspheme or lie
Only hope and prayer
Not to be
By Earth 1.
Raanana, August 28, 2016
On a night like this
A comet streaks across the sky
And when it’s closest to us
Thousands of souls jump off
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.
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.
Raanana, September 11, 2016
A hundred thousand poets for change
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,
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.
Raanana, September 16, 2016
In the mountains of the future dolphins will sculpt sweet succubae with the courage of their words.
The Zeitgist will let loose the tigers in the streets of light.
Old age is as impossible as an oak tree in the desert and this alarms the unseeing galaxies.
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.
Eagles conceive in the sunburnt sky lusting after the coldness of goddesses.
Frogs in the trees, the moon predicts the End of Days and their sight will pull ecstasy’s plow.
The goddesses savor the carelessness of eagles flying over the palm trees dotting the sands of time.
Take a chance on the obsessions of whippoorwills and the poems of incubi.
Toads comfort the weeping willow while wistful clouds sleep in the fields.
Dogs gather the wild berries and yartzeit stones along the path in their adventurous predictions.
Raanana, September 17, 2016
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 silence is better than truth.
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.
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.
(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,
Nor gentle breezes.
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
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
But this is not an ideal world,
So the dead watch over us tonight
Vigilant but helpless.
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
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
The naked thing
Who cannot help but tell the truth
Hoping you won’t understand
But love him for outlandishness.
Raanana, October 7, 2016
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
Yes, even the bravest trembles
Some turn away from you
Imagining invisible gods
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.
Raanana, October 8, 2016
I look at them now
As they are wont to do
And I wonder why
My father’s hands trembled too,
More toward the end,
How I loved them,
I think maybe they know something I don’t know,
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.
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
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
And every other!
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.
Raanana, October 22, 2016
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The sadness of possessing a treasure
That is of no value
To anyone else,
Of speaking a language
That no one speaks.
She said, that’s two sadnesses
You should take care
Not to waste them
When playing with me.
I said, the sadness of obeying
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.
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.
The sadness of being a spy
In a land among a people of irresistible beauty
Coming from a land and people
Of common ugliness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Raanana, January 6, 2017
So many raindrops smacking
My garden’s puddles.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raanana, February 27, 2017
Raanana, March 2, 2017
A small blood drop on
My uncle’s Samurai sword
Reflects the moon’s face.
Raanana, March 3, 2017
City far away
The brook burbles, the fish swim,
And nothing happens.
Raanana, March 4, 2017
A tear drop falls on
The old man’s mother’s death poem
Staining the brush strokes.
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.
Raanana, March 4, 2017
There is a saying
That which the gods can’t prevent,
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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,
Raanana, April 5, 2017
Tokyo train station
Hachiko stands still as stone,
Not everyone knows.
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Raanana, May 1, 2017
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?
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.
The siren sounds,
Even the small gray songbird
Stands still a moment on the branch
Before pecking at the shessik
Beneath its feet.
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,
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.
Raanana, June 12, 2017
I’ve finally said it:
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?
No siree Bob!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raanana, July 24, 2017
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.
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.
Ghosts who never were
Walk beside ghosts who were,
So many it is hard to tell
One from the other,
In the empty streets.
The thinker is a thought
Of his own thinking
In this whirligig of noumena.
Raanana, July 27, 2017
Whatever we will be
We are already.
We always were
What we will be.
Nothing has changed
Since change is all there is
And change keeps changing.
If all we can say we are
Is that we are changing
Then what can we really say
Raanana, July 28, 2017
Dreams are made of nothing whatsoever
But still they let us see into what might be
If we strive where they are pointing.
Even the universe was just a dream
Before its tightly folded petals burst wide open
On the very first day of spring,
And we’re still dreaming
Whether we are butterflies or men
Since what might be
Is just ahead of
What is or was.
Raanana, August 5, 2017
The tree and I have common roots,
Dad planted it out back when I was born
Other side of the ravine,
A leafy maple, strapping youngster as trees go
While I’m not as strapping as I once was
And Dad’s gone these seven years,
Next to the tree his father planted for his birth
Standing shaded vigil over him.
My children have their trees
And planted saplings for their kids,
Though they like to swing from my tree,
We wouldn’t want it any other way.
Raanana, August 9, 2017
It has been said
That pain is our friend
Because it lets us know we’re still alive.
Then death must be our enemy
Says living wisdom,
But death takes our pains away
One by one
Until, like a cool evening breeze
On a hot summer day
Death shuts our mouths
Closes our eyes,
And we melt back into the universe.
Raanana, August 12, 2017
An ambulance careens through the humid night
Its siren keening like a crazy old woman
Echoed against unfeeling brick tenements
Towards a hospital waiting room
Where one prays for life
While another for death.
Where is my son?
He asked in a stubborn broken accent.
She smelled a stench of sweat
And the neon lights outside
Blinked behind his hair.
What is his name?
She asked, her eyes turning away.
He mumbled a name
Belonging to a gurney rushing past her
A few hours ago.
He was in an accident,
Wait over there she pointed.
Any news yet?
He asked the nurse
His wife in a chair by their son’s bed
Holding his hand.
His smile twitched weakly
With nothing left to talk about.
There was an accident
The nurse said,
There’s a chance
But we don’t know yet.
The nurse pushed her cart on down the hall
And the man walked slowly
Into the room
To stand behind his wife
In their silence.
Raanana, August 15, 2017
I read the news today, oh man.
From a bunker under Lebanon
Nasrallah said he’d rain down missiles
Over Haifa and Dimona
While Hamas is digging wormholes
From Gaza City to Tel Aviv.
Our PM wants more power to
Declare war and peace
Without bothering our parliament
And now that ISIS all but lost,
Iran looms large on our horizon.
Far away North Korea’s readying
To aim their missiles just off Guam
While the US prez rattles missiles
In a hundred and forty characters or less,
And we’ve got three years left
To stop our earth from warming
Or start looking for another world.
It’s been two hundred seventy million years
Since the last mass extinction,
Aren’t we overdue for another?
When I was young I used to pray
Now I lay me down to sleep
Which protected me from news like this,
But now it doesn’t work as well –
So now I lay me down to sleep
A finger of scotch my soul does keep,
If I should die before I wake
The devil my drunken soul can take.
Raanana, August 22, 2017
An event horizon is a boundary in space-time
Beyond which events cannot affect observers
Or a set of points of no return
Like when my son took his family to America
Leaving us with nothing to feel but
Skype’s hard flat glass.
The path of totality of the solar eclipse yesterday
Was jam-packed with cars and trailers
With no rooms at hotels or motels
For a hundred or so miles.
The bible thumpers and doomsdayers nearby
Believe it bodes no good for us,
But my question is
Is that only inside the path of totality
Or also outside where people are unaware?
When people wax philosophical
They often ask
What is the meaning of life and the universe
And I think life and the universe
Are too big for a single meaning.
Raanana, August 26, 2017
Imagination is a funny skill
Full of magic gates and sideways glances,
Like how I love the call of whippoorwills
Though I’ve never seen or heard one,
Their lovely shrill beyond my hearing
In the dark woods up the distant hill
Of my imagining.
My love of whippoorwills was born
Of my mother’s poetic loins
Same time I passed through,
Imagined twins that fateful morn.
I suppose I might have gone
To a nearby library and found
An Audubon recording of
A whippoorwill’s real plaint
Or googled it on the internet,
But then again that real song
Never could compare
With the imagined trill.
Raanana, August 28, 2017
I remember Dad and me mulling over
The portrait of Dorian Gray.
I don’t remember how many a day
We brought it up,
But they were many and they were gay.
They were mostly about the portrait of him aging
While he himself stayed young.
That’s as far as ever we got on the subject,
Which is probably why we returned to it
I still often think of it
Though Dad is long gone
And finally got around to reading
That thin yellowed paperback
On a dusty shelf between
Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
And Bellow’s Herzog.
Come to think about it,
Dad must not have actually read the book,
What with Wilde’s wall-to-wall witticisms,
The prissy foppery and rich mauve lyricism,
And the aristocratic antisemitism,
I’m sure we would have discussed those too.
Now the dog-eared book is opened on my lap
I wish we could have had another round
Of mulling over Dorian Gray,
My dad and me.
Raanana, August 31, 2017
A descendant of Chuang Tzu named
Chaoxiang which means expecting fortune
Sat with his laptop carefully balanced
On his protruding belly
Dressed in his underwear
Behind a profile photo he’d downloaded
Of a prepubescent young thing
Chatting with lonely old men of the world
More from his yin side than his yang.
And now I wonder,
Was Chaoxiang a sleaze of a man
Dreaming he was a young girl with butterfly wings
Or was she a delicate butterfly girl
Dreaming she was a sleaze of a man,
Or was Chaoxiang just trying to pay his rent
By the loneliness of old men?
Raanana, September 4, 2017
The path and I meandered
Through the sun and shade
Careful not to overwhelm
The living who fill the light
Or the dead who fill the shadows.
I duck my head to miss the branches
Of trees straining to lift their roots
And place them elsewhere.
There I spy God hiding behind one
Abashed to be so naked
Wanting to be anything but God.
You could hear His prayers
If you’d stop your praying just a moment.
The home and I come closer
Knowing things are different now
As they always were
And always will be.
Raanana, September 6, 2017
The first time I saw you was
Not love at first sight.
It was a date arranged by relatives
But it was not the time for us.
All we had in common was
That we had nothing in common.
The next time I saw you was
Love at first sight.
It wasn’t really a date but
Kind of kept on gathering mass and speed
Like a snowball rolling downhill
Only the hill was a sand dune.
My eyes drank you in
Like a thirsty oasis
And the more I drank of you
The more I couldn’t get of you.
It was our time,
It rushed by so fast
It was gone before it arrived.
Every time I saw you then
Was the first time
And everything you said or did
Was as new to me as
We had nothing in common
Except each other.
Now and then I’m saddened.
I’ll love you til the end of time,
Yours and mine,
But now I see you day after day
And night after night,
I see less and less of you
From over-familiarity I suppose,
Less and less of those
Myriad details of you
That I drank in so thirstily
And memorized the sanctity of
The first times of everything
We did and were.
I look back at the tangled neural pathways
My soul’s traversed
And wish I could find my way back
Somehow to those first times that I saw you,
But the paths back are so tangled
I can only go forward.
Raanana, September 15, 2017
As I lay dying
My wife, my son and daughter,
Saw me to the far departure gate
Buoyed me with lamenting love.
Would that I could but turn back
At least to tell them what I witnessed
As I lay sighing.
I felt my daughter’s arms enfolding me
And my darkness raged against her light,
I felt them shroud me in a casket
And put a chiseled stone above me,
All that was me and will be me,
All dust as I lay crying.
I saw the world turn into dust,
Energy surceased and matter stopped
Dust, all dust.
I saw that we were space,
And we were time,
Space and time all dust,
As I lay dying.
Raanana, September 17, 2017
Up until the last few moments
The objectives of the mission had been nominal:
To receive the project team’s requests
To see and taste the atmospheres
Of planets and their moons
And return a steady stream
Of digital impressions to the team
For their analysis and summation,
To make a slow adjustment with one’s thrusters,
Point antennas back at earth
No matter where one was,
But nothing braced one for the end.
Oh, one knew one musn’t crash
On moons with water (there might be life).
One knew the fuel wouldn’t last
To get back home.
One knew there’d only be enough
To fall into the crushing grasp of Saturn.
When one felt the first small tug
Between the rings and methane air
One’s thrusters switched to fast-mode.
One thought the team might want to see
What one saw in these last few seconds
But one didn’t have the strength
To point the antennas back at earth.
One knew the S-band and the X would be lost.
One was still aware
When the fuel ran out and the thrusters stopped
And one fell helplessly towards the rising face
Unable to fulfill one’s mission anymore,
Until one crumpled and was crushed senseless
Like a diamond in the sky.
The team removed their headsets
And some felt strangely sad
As though an unborn thing had died.
They stood up slowly
And for reasons they couldn’t quite explain
Held onto each other without saying anything.
Raanana, September 18, 2017
Poems, like ghosts, won’t just come to you
Whenever you want.
They decide the time and place,
Whether to come at all.
They size you up and down
Whether you’re worthy or not.
Oh, I’ve known people who’ve gone
Their whole lives without ever knowing one.
You can be pretty
You can be smart
You can pray to God almighty
But that doesn’t mean a poem
Will come to your house
And knock on your door.
When they do come though,
They come naked as the day
They were born
And they expect you to be that way too,
Stripped down to your very soul.
Raanana, September 23, 2017
The child is taught
When there is no help
God is our help,
When there is no hope
God is our hope,
When there is no redemption
God is our redemption.
These are honeyed words
To hear on sabbath after new years,
They succor us until we need them to be true
And then they desert us
Just like God did long ago
And we cry out from our crosses
With our last breaths like His Son
Why have You forsaken Me?
The truth is it’s our beliefs that crucify us,
Better to die like a lion roaring
Against the jackals of death
Or an eagle falling silently
From the sky
Than like forsaken children
Waiting for redemption.
Raanana, September 27, 2017
That night the impossible thing didn’t happen
(You know what I’m talking about,
You also have an impossible thing
You would have sold your soul to happen,
You even walked up to the edge of sanity
And peered over down into its dark howling depths,
That didn’t happen so you leaped after it,
So that it would just stop howling)
For me it was a young girl with starlit hair
Whose mouth tasted like soap
Whose every word tasted like forever
Who loved love more than she loved me
Before I even knew I’d love her,
So that was my impossible thing that didn’t happen.
After the howling subsided
I met another girl with hair thick
With the color of a desert night
Whose mouth tasted like cucumbers and tomatoes
Whose words were foreign like a silence
Who showed me love was a possibility
If only you reach for it.
After all these years I still believe
That impossible things can happen
Even if not to me, but one thing I know –
No child was ever born of impossibility.
Raanana, October 5, 2017
Starry Night on a blank canvas
David in a block of granite
Toccata and Fugue on an untouched organ,
There’s something there in the nothingness
Faint words and even fainter music
In the deep silence,
I can see and hear them.
There are shades moving in the darkness,
Can you feel them moving around you?
Uncreated universes in the moments between us
Unimagined futures in front of us
Unknown pasts behind us,
And all you see is the nothing in the somethingness.
Open your eyes
No, close them
For they serve you not
To see inside you.
Raanana, October 6, 2017
I had a neighbor whose cabin was
The other side of the woods,
Most days smoke rising in the air above his cabin
Except those days he’d probably be
Out hunting near as I can figure.
I remember seeing him that one time
Must have been last fall at the lake
When I was hunting moose meat for the winter.
He was just sitting near the water
Doing nothing I could see.
I went up to him with my shotgun broken
Over the crook of my arm all friendly-like
And asked him if he’s the cabin other side of the woods.
He turned to look at me slowly
Like he couldn’t tear his eyes away
From what he’d been looking at
And said “yep”.
I sat down on the gravelly bank next to him
And said “nice day for hunting moose”.
“Yep,” he said again.
“Where’s your rifle, neighbor?” I asked,
Not seeing one around for the life of me,
And he answered tersely, “don’t own one.”
Just then all the geese rose into the air above the lake
Like they’d been startled or the air had gotten colder
And they still had miles to go before it got warmer.
The geese wheeled around winging southward,
There were so many of them
It was awhile before there weren’t any more in the sky.
I got back up onto my feet
Joints stiff from the coming weather
And said to him, “nice talking to you”,
Though I can’t figure out for the life of me
How he’s going to survive the winter.
Those geese wheeling around above the lake
Sure were pretty. I’d like to tell the missus
But I’m not so good with words,
Sometimes I wish I were.
Pawling New York, October 16, 2017
I’d like to own a cloud
Like the one I see now
Sliding over the sun down
Behind the distant hills.
Then someone’d say to me,
Hey mister, that’s a nice cloud you have there,
How much do you want for it?
And I’d just smile ’cause I owned it.
I’d like to own the whistle of the train
Clickety-clacking through the town at four each day,
Whistling thinly through the afternoon
For me and everyone else.
Then someone might say to me,
Hey mister, that’s a nice whistle you have there,
How much do you want for it?
And I’d just smile ’cause I owned it.
I’d like to own the reflection of the lake
Like the one I saw just now,
The castle hanging down from the shore,
The whistle of the train that passed the castle,
And the cloud caressing the sun behind the hill.
Then someone might say to me,
Hey mister, that’s a nice reflection you have there,
How much do you want for it?
And I’d just smile ’cause I owned it.
Rockville Maryland, October 29, 2017
There are poets
And then there are those
Who love reading poetry
And those who love those
Who love reading poetry
And those who just love anything
That has a soul.
The rest of them are robots
With programmed gestures
Rolling through their simulated existence.
Raanana, November 6, 2017
Gives me wings to fly into
Your sunset temple.
Raanana, November 7, 2017
Love being haiku
Haiku love being little
Being haiku love.
Raanana, November 12, 2017
Dear Mother, I regret from my soul’s depths
That it’s taken so very long for me to respond
To your prescient poem. You were only twenty
At the time and I was only one, though, after you died
At thirty-one, I thought I’d all the time in the world
To reply, but now at seventy I know that
Time is a deceit and the world is an illusion.
My eyes change colors chamelion-like
But brim sometimes with tears instead of dreams.
Did you know I’d live so far away from home
In the place where God once haunted us?
Were you once where I am now
A thousand books ago,
My little feet flew over sand?
Now my feet tread slower over distant dunes
And, though I’m closer now to God,
We’re not exactly speaking to one another.
No, you’re not rude,
Would that you could pierce my solitude
With your gentle touch.
Young mother, jeweled eyes, autumnal hair,
Your son is in his grandfathered years,
But you forsaw I’d be a poet in some past future
Or was I the heart to which you spoke,
The one that we were once?
Raanana, November 17, 2017
It is written that whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved a world
And whoever snuffs out a life
It’s as though he snuffed out a world,
And why is that?
It’s because that when we walk
We walk with an entire world in front of us
And we walk with a whole world behind us
On either side of us
Above and below us
So we are six worlds saved or destroyed
And who can know from whence will come the savior
How he’ll look or what he’ll do,
So whoever saves a life
It’s as though he saved himself
And whoever kills a life
It’s as though he killed himself.
The fourth chapter of the Mishnaic tractate of Sanhedrin “whoever destroys a single life … is considered … to have destroyed the whole world and whoever saves a single life … is considered … to have saved the whole world” sometime prior to 250 A.D.
Raanana, November 19, 2017
Do you know what kills me,
What really kills me?
All that beauty in this world,
That shocking totally unexpected beauty
One right after the other
Everywhere you look
Even when you’re not looking
Morning afternoon and night
Right next to you and far as you can see,
You just want to stand near it
Feel its warmth, hear its loveliness
Touch it just barely, hold it hard and long
Smell its sweet pungence, taste its tang,
But you can’t because you don’t speak its language
And you don’t have the coin to buy a ticket
To pass through that gate.