Call of the Whippoorwill

Call of the Whippoorwill

Dedicated to my mother

Copyright © 2017 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

Promises

Raanana, December 9, 2017

In this small sliver of a country

Where we call our hills mountains

Our history future

And our dreams reality,

The sun creeps slowly up the eastern hills

At dawn and sets the sleeping skies alight.

When winter forgets to rain long days

The sun’s fires are too far to warm our hands

But the light is so heavy you can barely carry it

Against your chest, let alone your eyelids.

The rain, when it does finally come,

Becomes a celebration of snails

Silver-tracking the sidewalks

As though they were all that were here

But soon they are a celebration of birds and cats

Leaving only broken spiral shells.

At night dreams fly around like bats

Felt but never seen,

And promises are sometimes touched

Like two lovers

Like a finger against one’s lips.

As Your Face Guides Me Home

Raanana, December 15, 2017

If I were as rich and handsome as God

I’d make you a constellation

In the starry sky and

Instead of stars, it’d be made of universes.

Everyone would look up and say

Your name and how lovely it is

And they’d look to you to guide them

Home to their loved ones

Wherever they were

As your face guides me home through the night.

You’d be a Goddess too,

I’d never be jealous,

But we wouldn’t sit all day on our thrones

Listening to everything’s prayers.

We’d go for walks in the woods

Meandering like the creek that follows us

Like a faithful dog. We’d have

Lao Tzu or Bodhisattva in our bellies

Warm with laughter.

We’d spend the rest of our time

Just imagining what we couldn’t create

But would be nice if it were

Like everything else does.

Haiku

Raanana, December 16, 2017

When I think of the

Seasons of our galaxy,

We live as mayflies.

A Grudging Gratitude

Raanana, December 20, 2017

When I was a young kid

I don’t remember being grateful for much

If anything at all.

It’s just that everything is given to you

Or you’re given nothing whatsoever

But you don’t know the cost of it

Or whom to thank.

Besides, when you are young

You’re going to live forever

And there’s lots of time to tell

Others what you think

If you thought about it at all.

Now, in the weakening light

Of the autumn dusk,

After the pruning of future possibilities,

I sit on a bench near a useless sundial

Daisy’s massive head and front legs folded

In my lap and me stroking her velvet skull

And flicking away the occasional fly

In a kind of meditation on how many white hairs

Have replaced the black and brown hairs on her jowls,

And that is a gratitude of sorts, I suppose.

Then I got to thinking about the other things

For which I’m grateful, like yesterday,

Sitting on the floor next to my little granddaughter

Watching animals sing songs in children’s voices,

Our backs against the sofa, her leaning against me

The smell of her hair, soft and warm,

And the other evening my wife and I watched a movie,

I don’t remember which, but afterward,

After they’d scrolled through the credits,

They showed a distant mountain with a large moon behind it

And at the top of the mountain, a coyote baying.

For some unknown reason, my wife and I both decided

The coyote was a dog and, whenever they’d show this,

I’d see my wife’s eyes well up with tears

And I’d reach for her hand and ask

Who else but me, in the whole wide world,

Would know what you’re thinking

And think it too?

For these things, I am grateful to have lived long enough

To finally feel them. They may not be much of a pinnacle,

But they are the pinnacle of my existence.

Zen and the Art of Dying

Raanana, December 23, 2017

Death, after a full life, is not so fearsome.

It’s like a kind of meditation,

A relaxation from the tensions of living and dying,

A clarity that sees illusions, but also through them,

A detachment from pain and desire

In which the subject and object disappear together

And all that is left is invisible and silent.

Death is not a thing that stalks you,

That finds you where you hide,

It’s not a thing you can hold in your hand,

Thumbs up or thumbs down,

But the end of a life that never was forever,

That proffers bitter-sweet meaning

To those who accept it

On its threshold.

To see oursels as ithers see us!

Raanana, December 26, 2017

This is your trusted reporter

coming to you from a little planet

whirling around a midsize star

in the withered arm of a distant galaxy.

I’m sitting here on a wooden bench

witness to the strangest forms

you’d hope to see, not based on

discernable intelligent design,

integrated circuits or metallic mechanism.

Some have hard exoskeletons and some

are sacks of bones and soft organelles

with two holes, one ingesting all manner of things

and the other gushing excrement.

Not far from where I’m sitting is

a rather tall thin sack of bones sitting on a bench

while another sack of bones lies on the ground beside him.

Near him, a smaller sack of bones walks around

pecking here and there, then jumping in the air

and coming down somewhere else to walk and peck.

I sit on a bench near the sundial resting a little

with my beloved Daisy lying at my feet

before we move on.

I chance to see a small grey bird walking near us,

pecking here and there,

most probably for small bugs and occasional worms,

but Daisy seems mostly uninterested.

There’s a gentleman on another bench

who seems to talk to himself in a tongue I’ve never heard.

For some reason unknown to me, I wondered whether

Robby the Bard of Ayrshire was right after all

about the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.

I’m not so sure I’d even like to see myself

as I see me.

You Have the Power

Raanana, December 29, 2017

A group of young men stood by

A young woman struggling to rise

From the ground, clutching buttonless blouse,

Dress torn from bruised body.

The men had blank looks on their sated faces.

A common enough story of evil’s banality,

There are too many others, to be sure.

A poet stood before them and said,

You have the power.

Power thinks it is stronger than beauty

So it can have it for itself,

But it cannot.

Beauty only gives itself to beauty

And to love.

Power can only protect beauty

Or destroy it.

He offered his hand to the woman and said,

You have the beauty.

Beauty is fragile but fragility

Conquered ten thousand ships

And many more hearts,

Because love makes us all fragile.

If this were a poem, it would end with the last line,

But evil bows the heads of its minions

And justifies its acts so it can

Hide in plain sight.

The men beat the poet to death

And hung his thin corpse from a nearby tree.

This is life, not poetry.

Our Genesis

Raanana, January 4, 2018

To each of us God grants a world and time

That when we waken in the morning

We are Adam and we are Eve in Eden

Knowing nothing, but naming everything,

The animals, the trees and plants, the sky-born stars

And each other.

While we live, we live forever,

When we love, there only is the other,

For that is how we live and love.

We create the God who has created us

And He is jealous, smelling our compulsion to create,

Striking us down like bolts of lightning

When we would create ourselves.

When we kill, we are Cain and we are Abel,

We hide from ourselves, though we cannot and

We are dead and we are doomed to

Walk this earth forsaken by us

Forever.

Yes, and what about our freedom?

God granted us our freedom, but

The demons hid it in the constellations

For us to lose our sanity searching for it

In the desert night.

The Spirit and the Body

Raanana, January 6, 2018

The spirit and the body live symbiotically,

Though neither needs the other,

They both enrich each other.

The body imagines the spirit

Upon which the spirit incorporates the body

With its traits of goodness and beauty

And they grow by consuming each other,

Though neither is lessened in doing so.

The spirit sees all things, but not the individual,

The body sees only the particular and not the allthing.

The spirit can see forever, but knows not the time of day,

The body knows this moment, but not what was or what will.

Together, they are God and the universe.

Because of them, there are acts of God

And the day-to-day happenings of the world.

Sabbath Morning

Raanana, January 6, 2018

Sabbath morning

Rainwashed and sundazzled

A day as fresh as any you’ll ever find.

Walking Daisy in the promised land,

America still sleeps snugly under night.

Here you’re just as likely to meet God as anyone else

Along the tree-arched paths

(Just be careful not to look Him in the eyes).

The cats in the courtyard form a minyan

For their murmured prayers in the silent warmth

And I ask no one in particular

Who needs all the synagogues,

Churches and cathedrals?

A Visitor

Raanana, January 10, 2018

A multiplication table,

Two times two is four,

She could read a multiplication table

And you’d swear it was poetry

But when she’d read you her own poem

It’d sound like her skin was torn from her soul,

Like she’d invented meaning in your mind.

She was a visitor,

She didn’t come from here.

City of Peace

Raanana, January 12, 2018

On days like these with a high-noon sun

Shining on a little courtyard,

The bougainvillea silent for lack of breeze,

I wonder whether David, the shepherd king,

Considered the possibility I’d be sitting here

Sipping from a cup of coffee, daydreaming

Of his pasture not so far from me

And lambs long gone, their progeny roaming

The barren hills of Ein Gedi

And his dreams of a city of peace

For all who hold its rocky paths holy.

What would he have thought of all the blood spilt

In its name by those who would own it?

The Witness

Raanana, January 14, 2018

What did you witness today?

Was it exceptional or was it like every other day?

What was it about the day you found exceptional?

Would you have preferred it last forever or

Would you have preferred it never were?

Was it lovely beyond words or

Was the pain more than you could take?

Did you want to die?

Was there a tree involved?

What kind of tree? Tall or scraggly? Straight or bent?

Did heavy succulent fruit hang from it or

A man who had no use for life anymore?

Was it day or night?

Were there clouds in the sky?

Did it rain? Were the drops lugubrious?

Were there men and women walking slowly in the street?

Was it a dirge or threnody?

Were there many animals too?

Were they ferocious or

Were they lapdogs?

What about the birds? Did they sing or were they eagles?

Was there a single flower or a field full of flowers?

What kind of flower?

What kind of flower?

Five Experiments in Synaesthesia

Raanana, January 15, 2018

1.

Silence.

Silence looks clear.

Silence feels lonely.

Silence tastes watery.

Silence smells fresh.

2.

Warmth.

Warmth looks mauve.

Warmth sounds like a bow drawn across cello strings.

Warmth tastes like spice wine.

Warmth smells like your mother’s perfume.

3.

Naked.

Naked sounds true.

Naked feels both vulnerable and voluptuous.

Naked tastes bitter-sweet.

Naked smells like ginkgo trees during Autumn.

4.

An orange.

An orange looks like it’s about to burst.

An orange sounds shrill like a shakuhachi.

An orange feels precise and pointillistic.

An orange smells like a childhood memory.

5.

Her hair.

Her hair looks thick and flowing.

Her hair sounds like a fugue.

Her hair feels cool between the fingers.

Her hair tastes like almond walnut baklava.

Hush My Heart

Raanana, January 16, 2018

Hush my heart, be still

God knows how you stay whole

From swelling when those you love are near,

Your eyes see goodness or beauty,

Or ears hear truth,

And ebb when not.

The Muse will come one day

But she will leave the next,

Be wise and hush.

Kneehigh to an Indiana Jigger

Raanana, January 19, 2018

When I was kneehigh to an Indiana jigger

Only birds tweeted and their tweets were longer

Than a hundred and forty characters,

Posts came in and went out tin boxes

With rounded roofs and red metal flags

That notified you when you had mail,

And when you shared something

It got divided among those you shared it with

Instead of getting multiplied by infinity.

I’m not saying times were better then,

Just that they were different.

Nobody needed to speak a foreign language

Because most of the world you’d ever see

Was ten miles or less from home.

Now, from where I sit,

Older than I thought I’d ever be,

The world has grown and so has time.

We remain the same

But the same has gotten smaller.

Do Not Look for Wisdom

Raanana, January 20, 2018

Don’t look for wisdom in the words of elders or others

Their words may have been wise for them

Or just as likely not.

You have to make your own way,

To fall and then get up

And fall again.

That is how words gain meaning in your heart

And become wisdom in your soul.

Don’t look for poetry in the waving blades of grass,

The forest trees arching darkly over unknown paths,

Or barren shores where horizonless skies bleed seas.

The poetry is in the orifices of your body’s mind

That completes the grassy fields,

The forest paths and barren shores

For, without you, their poetry would not exist.

And don’t look for beauty in the eagles flying

High over the dappling shadowed hills and valley,

The constellations wheeling over your head at night,

Or her high cheekbones, frail form, and thick flown hair.

Without the eyes of your soul

They would only be birds of prey, grains of sand

Spilled from a cracked hourglass

Or a stranger in a crowd.

Don’t Hang the Poets

Raanana, January 23, 2018

By the time you read this

I’ll be long gone,

Not in a sad sense

But in a hit the road sense.

Did you think I’d stick around forever?

I’ve got universes to create

And people to make.

Besides, I’m infinite and you are finite.

Do the math.

You can’t count up to me

And I can’t subtract myself to get to you.

Everything you do or say is finite.

I do nothing, yet it is done.

I can’t know or care about every hair on your heads,

Nor every cell or atom in your bodies.

There are so many worlds and galaxies,

Yet they are finite.

Yes, my prototypes,

I knew them well enough.

No, I wasn’t angry when she bit the fruit of knowledge

And offered him a bite.

What parent would?

And I didn’t kick them out of Eden.

They just took up responsibilities

And fended for themselves.

Eden was their childhood

But then they were adults.

These books you so revere,

The Bible, Quran, and others like them,

You should know I had no part,

Men forged My name and that is all.

They quoted what they wrote for

Ungodly purposes I assure you.

Don’t let them lead you

For they know not more than what you know.

There have been wise men

But you seldom had the wisdom to follow.

I didn’t make you master over My creation,

You are just a part of a wondrous whole

Where every part is necessary

Or the whole is diminished.

One more thing before I close:

The poets, please don’t hang the poets

For I was one once, my words were worlds,

From them will come your soul’s salvation.

There Will Never Be Another

Raanana, January 25, 2018

There will always be a rainbow

God promised Noah the earth would never be destroyed

And the rainbow would remind men in every generation

There will always be an earth and

There will always be clear lakes and rivers

From which to drink and

There will always be fruits of the soil and of the trees

And flesh of animals of the sea and land to fill our bellies,

Or will there?

What if we cover the soil, the flowers, and fruit

With cement and asphalt?

What if we poison our waters and skies?

What if we kill the bees that pollinate the flowers?

What if we cover our skies with thick clouds

And cracked mud is all that’s left of seas?

There can be no rainbow if there’s no rain,

So next time you see a rainbow,

Say to others and yourself,

There will never be another rainbow,

There will never be another life,

There will never be another earth.

Seventy-Three Years Later

Raanana, January 27, 2018

Today the skies were too blue

The winds too gentle

The cats warmed themselves in the sunlight

The flowers opened dewy petals.

Yesterday the skies were muffled by gray clouds

That poured out rains of wrath

And pounded us with bolts of lightning and thunder,

But today the skies were so blue

Our wounded hearts were wounded anew.

Death’s dominion has many ports of entry

But the uncontested capital of inhumanity is Auschwitz.

This morning I heard

They’ve opened up a tourist center there

For visitors to take selfies and buy mementos.

Children run and shout, and parents hush to no avail,

Neo-nazis say zig heil silently, noting greater efficiencies.

Were I a god, I’d rain down bolts of thunder and lightning

On that craven site and others sterilized of sweet stench

Obliterating them so no brick stood on brick,

Commanding cruelty’s worshippers to rebuild them

Only to be destroyed again and again

For the rest of eternity,

But I’m no god

And the skies are so blue,

It hurts so bad.

Enoch

Raanana, January 29, 2018

Arabian horses galloping riderless

On the plains of the desert between Mecca and Petra

Dust in their eyes and thirst in their throats,

Eagles flying above their sweating backs

Beating the shimmering air with their broad wings.

Like a mirage they appear on the horizon

First the sight of them, then the sound,

Thousands of hoofs pounding the ground thunderously

Thousands of wings beating the scorched air,

Scorpions run across the hot sand escaping

Their tails curled over their backs.

A small flower grows on the horizon behind the horses

Rumbling thickening reaching up to the sky

And the horses turned to ashes

And the eagles turned to dust

And the scorpions were not.

Call of the Whippoorwill

Raanana, January 30, 2018

O Whippoorwill, O Whippoorwill,

I alone do hear your plaint.

It comes from deep inside my breast,

Would that I could let it out

To fly free singing,

But no such birds exist here

In the promised land.

Promises

Raanana, January 31, 2018

Between a crop of angular rocks near a small puddle

Of clear water left over from yesterday’s rain,

A cyclamen bows its pink head to a green spadefoot toad

Which sticks out its long tongue at a passing butterfly.

Wisps of high cloud caress the cyan skies

And solitary eagles dot the sky looking for prey.

Promises in the winter desert,

Promises of milk and honey,

Here the creeks run dry

Or they gush flooding the goat paths,

Nothing in between.

Dream Logic: Axioms and Syllogisms

Raanana, February 2, 2018

Walking slowly unevenly in the alley at night

She once told me to follow the butterfly

Wherever it may lead

Even if through the valley of the shadow

But now I am lost.

Goddesses stand under the lamp hearing my skepticism

And offer kind words of encouragement.

A palm tree flashes in neon over a back door

Which opens suddenly

Spilling out a man who looks like me.

I walk past him, not wanting to get involved.

The alley opens up into a vast desert

With shimmering horizons.

Under the rocks demons savor my detachment

Wanting to touch it, to try it on

Like an ill-fitting suit.

Lions roam the bamboo forests

Looking for the sands of time

That have spilled out of a cracked hourglass,

Hell’s wistful attempt at quelling our predilections.

It’s night again in the cemetery. It’s always night.

Ghosts grow there like weeds

Reminding us of the cost of freedom

But they are no longer free

And neither are we.

Mulberry Tree

Raanana, February 4, 2018

A pale sun proffered its thin light in a steel gray sky

As though through a bullet hole in a helmet.

Clouds of gritty sand hugged the low hills

And whipped the soldier’s face and hands.

He thought the sun was high enough

For them to come and relieve him.

There was nothing more on God’s earth he wanted

Than stand under the riddled water-filled udder,

Wash away the sand and sweat of guard duty,

And then drift on the cool lake of unconsciousness.

A small dust cloud rose from a distant point

Where the narrow road met the horizon.

He thought idly who is the road

And who is the horizon?

But the answer hung like a fig from a mulberry tree,

Cursed yet sweet.

Daisy

Raanana, February 6, 2018

Heaven felt especially careless running free

The day we drove down the gullies and up the hills

Of Mount Yatir over roads that weren’t roads

Or even goat paths

Past Beduin tents and shacks

Until we saw a sign pointing down another gully

And our car slipped cautiously down

Loosened pebbles accompanying us while I braked

But then I saw seventeen or more boxers

Running wild, running free

And thought to myself I must have died and

Gone to heaven since I’d never seen so many boxers.

The woman who bred the boxers

Introduced us to the mother of the litter

And showed us a cardboard box of just-born puppies

Crawling over each other to get somewhere else

And my youngest son pointed at one of them

Saying that’s the one

So that was the one we asked for

And my wife named her Daisy

I don’t know why

But looking back these ten and a half years

I can’t think of any better name we could have called her.

The only thing I remember of our drive back home

Was my son drove the car while I held Daisy to my heart

And that’s the way it’s always been

And always will be.

The Wedding

Raanana, February 6, 2018

She had just arrived from the other side of the world

A couple weeks before so I took her to the woods one night

After the park was closed to see the raccoons.

I often came to visit them at night

To give them sticks of gum.

I’d watch them unwrap a stick with dextrous little fingers

And look for a place to wash the gum

Before putting it in their mouths.

I know, I know, forty-six years later, I shouldn’t have,

But they were smart and never swallowed

And I knew then that she had come here just to see me.

I loved her, of course, but I didn’t want to rush things

Seeing as how Mom and Dad divorced when I was young

And I knew how miserable and guilty children can feel

But then a trapdoor opened and

I saw eternity yawning underneath me.

As I was falling into its maw I asked her if she’d marry me.

Her yes reached down and lifted me back to solid ground

And the trapdoor shut as though it never were.

The wedding wasn’t a big affair,

The raccoons officiated

All for a stick of gum.

Kirkuk and Eastern Ghouta

Raanana, February 9, 2018

While America slept under its heated blankets

While Europe slept under its thick comforters

Women wend their ways through the rubble

Of Kirkuk and Eastern Ghouta

Mumbling inaudible prayers on their lips to Allah

Let nothing happen please

Just let me go to market or the doctor

Without bullets or explosion

This moment or the next.

From Jerusalem to Bethlehem

Raanana, February 13, 2018

Panthers lick the wild berries by the sea at dusk

Soon the moon will rise and dreaming eyes will close,

My hands’ blind predilection for touching shapes

Prefer their coolness to their colors.

It’s a time when God turns away from us

And spirits deafen themselves to our supplications,

When all the views of Jerusalem come together as one,

Where stone lions stop to sniff the trembling flowers

On their slouch towards Bethlehem.

The Old Colossus

(an alternate plaque for our Statue of Liberty)

Raanana, February 16, 2018

What have I done

What

have

I

done

to warrant these insults and injuries

to our once rich lands,

our once free skies,

and our once clear waters?

You’ve stripped me of my soil,

you’ve fouled my air,

and you’ve diverted and poisoned my waters.

Have you found another land,

another sky,

or another water to love?

Or have you no soul anymore

to love any land,

any sky,

or any lake or river?

Take what you will from me

then leave me alone

and I will recover without you

but what will you do without me?

What

will you

do without

me?

Blowin’ in the Wind

(a new verse for Bob Dylan’s song)

Raanana, February 18, 2018

How many guns must they sell us

Before we say that’s enough?

Yes, and how many schools must our kids die in

Before we say that’s enough?

Yes, and how many prayers should we say for them

Before it’s time to act?

The hot air balloon is blowin’ in the wind,

A nothin’ doin’s blowin’ in the wind.

The Butterflies of Oswiecim

Raanana, February 22, 2018

The fulsome clouds roil over the quiet suburbs of Oswiecim

And the barbed wire camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Though the four crematoria are no longer functional,

The fences no longer jump and pop with electricity,

The guards with their machine guns and searchlights

No longer man the tall towers, the Kommandant

And his family no longer take their Sunday dinners there,

There’s still a feeling of death that chokes and suffocates

That escapes through the fences hugging the ground

All the way to the suburbs and beyond.

And still, the butterflies flit from lilac to lilac

In the surrounding fields.

Love’s Number

Raanana, February 12, 2018

I’ve often thought

That love should be

Assigned a number.

Probably

You’re thinking two

But that’s too small.

It should be big enough

To earn respect

But not so big

We’d never reach it.

It wouldn’t be

An integer

Since sometimes

Couples split apart

And hearts are

Fractioned.

Non-repeating decimal I’d think

Since love,

If lost,

May never come again.

If love were numbered

We could add up unloved numbers

Til we reach it.

The Dementia Diaries

Raanana, February 25, 2018

1.

Just for the record

I didn’t write this,

My son did.

He says he’s recording

Everything I say to him

On the phone

Since he’s so far away.

He says

He’s writing it like a poem

Though I don’t think

My life is too poetic

And besides,

The lines don’t rhyme.

I didn’t pick the title either.

He says since he’s recording everything,

He gets to pick the title.

Maybe he’s got dementia,

I know I don’t.

2.

What’s this doing here?

I didn’t say

Any of this stuff.

I don’t need a diary,

My memory’s fine.

3.

Well,

As long as you’re asking,

I’m not doing so well today.

Why?

I’ll tell you why.

They said they’d take me home today

And I’m still here waiting.

No, this isn’t my home.

Who are they?

They’re the people

Who said they’d take me home.

No, it’s not my home.

My home is when I was a little girl

With my parents

And my sisters.

What do you mean they died long ago?

I talk to Mama every day

And they come to pick up Daddy

Every Shabbos

Since they need him for a minyan.

My sisters don’t call much,

I guess they’re busy

Doing things they want to do.

Why do you keep saying

They are dead and buried

In the cemetery with Dad?

I know that

But they’re still alive

Since I talk to them

Everyday.

Would I lie to you?

Do I think you’d lie to me?

No,

I guess not.

Maybe I’m losing my mind.

4.

I can only talk

For a few minutes today.

Why?

Because I’ve got to dress

To go to work.

How old do I think I am?

How old do you think I am?

I’m ninety-five?

So what?

I have to pay my bills still.

What do you mean

I don’t have to work?

What do you mean

Everything is paid for here?

Very interesting,

That’s the first time

Anyone’s told me that.

I’ll just hop a bus

And go downtown.

I read the syndicated news

To the local rags

And have lunch

With the girls.

It’s the cat’s meow.

Got to run.

5.

I don’t know why

You don’t believe me

That I work

And this place here

Is not my home.

Just ask my Mama,

She’ll tell you.

6.

If what you say

Is true,

And this is all I have

And all there is

And what I think is true

Is not,

Then what use is there

In living?

Nobody comes to visit me

Or call.

Nobody takes me anywhere

Or asks me if I’d like to go.

My kids are far away.

I don’t see anyone

Except these pictures

On the wall.

No,

I don’t know any of

The other residents.

The lady that kept a teddy-bear in her bag?

The one with the trembly voice?

No,

I don’t know anyone like that.

Don’t know anyone.

Maybe I’ll hop a plane

And come to you.

Things Not Human

Raanana, February 27, 2018

Beauty is a human value.

Nothing is

Beautiful or ugly

Until we see it.

The same is true

Of good and evil.

We must take care

In how we treat

Things not human

For they cannot tell us

What is right or wrong

For them.

Outside the Game

Raanana, March 3, 2018

The sun rose god-like

Blinding us with its visage

As it peeked over the eastern hills.

A young goddess appeared in flowing robes

Walking a dog, also a god,

Both swallowed by the sunlight.

We’re all gods sitting around a poker table

Playing cards we’re dealt

Bluffing and calling

Pushing some chips toward the center

Sweeping some back,

Winning some worlds

Losing others,

Time stops, then stutters,

Unaware of what is

Outside the game.

On Purpose

Raanana, March 4, 2018

The purpose of the universe,

If you call it purpose,

Is to fill up every corner of it

With possibility.

Call that a purpose, Universe?

I shake my fist at the bridge of stars

Spanning from nowhere to nowhere.

It is irrational,

My shoulders slump,

To bring a child into a future

If futures meander in all directions.

The purpose of life

Is being born to consume all there is,

To spawn more life

And die,

Complex chains of molecules

Slouching forward toward

Some predetermined Bethlehem.

Call that a purpose, Life?

I shake my fist at birth and death

And all that is between.

It is irrational,

I sink to knees,

To bear a child to death’s final destiny,

From gravidarum to the grave.

And God’s purpose for us,

If He exists at all,

Is said to be mysterious.

Certainly, He’d blush were we to know

We only serve to praise Him.

Gloria in Excelsis Deo,

Yisgadal v’yiskadash sh’mei rabbaw,

For He is nothing if not jealous.

Call that a purpose, God?

I shake my fist at Kings and Thrones.

It is irrational,

I bow my head,

To deny one’s life and those of others

To favor heavens out of reach

And hells for unbelievers.

So it’s up to us to find our purpose

One much greater than the pittance allotted us

By universe, life, or God,

A purpose to defy the purposelessness of all these things

A purpose to bring meaning to meaninglessness

A purpose to sow beauty in barren fields

A purpose worthy of a soul.

Only thus it’s rational,

I raise my head and stand on sturdy legs,

To meld soul to soul

To soul.

Looking for a Poem

Raanana, March 9, 2018

I woke up this morning

Got out of bed

With an unexplained hankering

To write a poem today

So I slipped on my jeans

And looked for a poem to write

That hadn’t been written yet.

I looked in the cupboard and then in the fridge

But seemed we were fresh out.

I looked through the paper,

The stories and pictures,

Even the ads,

Page after page

For something between the lines

Or the silence before and after,

But nothing was found.

Honestly,

Don’t know why people read newspapers.

Daisy and I walked out

For her necessities

While I looked in the bushes and tree branches.

Sometimes I see something

Flashing the sunlight

Or reflecting the quick shadows of clouds

That let go a flood of memories

And old loves.

I used to go out looking for girls to love

But now I go out looking for poems.

I suppose that’s a kind of love too,

Sometimes a dalliance

But mostly unrequited.

Later I went to the gym

Where we torture our bodies

In hopes we’ll trim fat or grow muscles

And looked for a poem

Between the weights and the treadmills

But truth was the beautiful came beautiful

And left beautiful,

The strong came and left strong,

The rest of us stayed tired and tortured

With nary a poem to show for it.

After that,

I stopped at a coffee shop

My hand trembling a cup

I looked around at the other tables

But nobody was reading a dogeared book

Or writing a poem

Or looked up at me

As I looked away,

Though the tables were busy

With people reciting their well-rehearsed plaints.

No poems on the menu

For lovers of Buddha

So I went back home thinking

Maybe this is a poem.

The Blessing

Raanana, March 9, 2018

Just suppose instead of dying

You kept on living.

You get to keep your mind

But it’s unconnected to any other

Living man or woman’s view of reality.

In your reality the dead you loved

Go on living,

Doing what they always did.

It’s the living loved ones disappoint you

With their separate realities

Not including you in their trips to the beach

Or family dinners

Since frankly your grotesqueness scares the kids.

No, the dead never disappoint.

They call each day

And take you out to lunch.

The place you worked,

Though long shut down,

Still employs you

And your old home where you grew up,

Though long sold to someone else,

Still waits for your return.

But sometimes they do disappoint,

Even the dead,

Like last week when

Mama and your sisters stopped calling you

And no one living gave you their numbers

So you could check that they’re ok

And you thought that they were mad at you,

It made you cry,

You hadn’t wronged them that you knew.

Some days are good

And some are bad

When you live with the dead and the living,

But you can’t see

The time you occupy

Has calved like some ice floe

From the world,

Maybe that’s a blessing.

Ellah and the Terebinth

(Isaiah 6:13)

Raanana, March 18, 2018

Just five days old such big hopes

Rest on such tiny shoulders,

Little Ellah, are you a goddess

Or a terebinth tree?

Your name means both these things.

Maybe you’re the goddess of the terebinth,

The holy seed foretold in Isaiah’s prophecy:

No matter what befalls us,

Like a terebinth that has been felled

Above its grounded roots

We shall grow back,

Stronger

Taller

Sweeter.

Final Interpretation of Silence

Raanana, March 22, 2018

Do you remember

The day we first met

Passing poems back and forth in English Lit,

The evening you turned all our clocks around

Or another time you taped a string of bells

To the ceiling and lit the bottom,

Or that time in a cave

We said we’d love to live there,

Do you remember the day you died

And you were buried in your favorite constellation?

After all this time

I’m still receiving silences from you,

The mailbox is stuffed full of them.

Little Flame

Raanana, March 25, 2018

I cupped my hands around your little flame

Protecting it from susurrating air

So finite against the infinity of night

Until you rise above the eastern mountains

And light the skies with your burnished rays.

But Until Such Time

Raanana, March 30, 2018

In the moment I couldn’t see

The things around me here and now,

I had a vision of what will be:

And in the end of days

All our knowledge

All our beliefs

All our opinions

All our loves

And all our creations

Will turn to dust

And blow away

And the sands will turn to time

Which will cease to be counted,

But until such time

Until that time

I will walk slowly among the lilies of Mount Carmel

The cyclamen and anemone

And I will turn time into my children and their children

And moments will become tender words

And words will become wonder.

Pantomime

Raanana, April 6, 2018

Daisy and I play a game of pantomime,

She does her old dog walking slowly act

And I say brightly “old age”.

She looks up from the vine she sniffs and smiles,

I say “too easy, you did that yesterday”.

She continues her slow walk,

No matter how slow I walk to match her pace

She walks slower

And I say “time,

Time is measured by our steps!”

She walks even slower,

Trailing back

Like an astronaut cut loose in space.

Time stops for her

Though I go on.

Jedwabne 1941

Raanana, April 12, 2018

Set coordinates for tenth of July 1941,

Jedwabne Poland Earth.

Wear local clothes, don’t draw attention,

And do not, under any circumstances,

Don the yellow star with “Jude” sewn in.

Do not be seen too near or interested in

The sites of stonings or corpses dangling from trees

And maintain safe distance from the burning barn.

Wait for the screaming to die down.

Mercifully, the fire will suffocate your ancestors

Before they burn to death.

You will witness similarities

In Pilki, Choroszcz, Czyżew,

Goniądz, Grajewo, Jasionówka,

Kleszczele, Knyszyn, Kolno,

Kuźnica, Narewka, Piątnica,

Radziłów, Rajgród, Sokoły,

Stawiski, Suchowola, Szczuczyn,

Trzcianne, Tykocin, Wasilków,

Wąsosz, and Wizna.

Take care recording neighbors’ every word

For replay on return for their descendants

Who have forgotten this recurring pattern,

Though it’s well-known forgetting is a part,

And are readying their torches for the march.

Wars

Raanana, April 16, 2018

Wars are things planned

By bitter old men

And fought by our children

In front of cheering crowds.

The plans of old men fail

Children unprotected die

And tears of mothers flow to rivers of blood.

Where is the logic in this?

Even our enemies know it.

Were we to raise our eyes in time’s direction

There’d be no war anymore.

Old men would play shesh-besh

Children would bring children

And people would love being people.

23,645

Raanana, April 18, 2018

We are too small a country for statistics.

Our dead fathers and children are too dear to count,

Each number is a name

An infinity of sorts cut short

Amidst his aspirations and his loves,

Each a proof unproven and unprovable,

Each immortal in his death

As long as memory lives

Somewhere.

The first in May of ’48, in Tel Aviv,

A merchant bringing goods to market

Just after we declared ourselves a country.

The last, last month, in Jerusalem,

Adiel Kolman, a mother’s son,

On his way to pray at the Wailing Wall,

Was stabbed,

And all the others in between

Make a number that keeps on being

Scratched out and rewritten.

I’ve Seen Death Come

Raanana, June 4, 2018

I’ve seen death come for some

But not for others.

I’ve seen it drag souls from those they loved

And seen souls pull death’s slippery robes

Begging to be taken with it

Wherever it may go.

I’ve seen death sit patiently by a bedside,

Waiting for some soul to ask to be released,

And seen it rescue others

From the fear or pain of dying,

A thousand times worse than death, once come.

What else can be said of death?

That it’s unknown until it comes

And once it comes,

There’s no time left for wisdom’s gain.

Sacrilege?

Raanana, June 6, 2018

Please don’t find fault with me

For loving how your flesh felt;

Afterall, it was home to me

Ere I came to this world.

I could behold you lovely face

Forever, never tiring,

Trying to understand what beauty meant

Before I understood your words.

Your soft gray eyes,

Your pearl white teeth,

Your warm breath

When I was close against your breast

Were all that’s needed to make a heaven

For one as small as me.

But now I’m older than you ever were,

I know that loving flesh

Is just like loving creeks

That snake through the shadows

Of a cool afternoon

Or purple mountains in distant majesty

And all the things of earth

That we have come from.

All these things, and flesh too,

Move us with their souls

And only souls are moved by beauty,

And flesh, without a soul,

Is carrion groaning for burial.

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