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 6

As Your Face Guides Me Home 7

Haiku 8

A Grudging Gratitude 8

Zen and the Art of Dying 10

To see oursels as ithers see us! 10

You Have the Power 12

Our Genesis 13

The Spirit and the Body 14

Sabbath Morning 15

A Visitor 15

City of Peace 16

The Witness 17

Five Experiments in Synaesthesia 18

Hush My Heart 19

Kneehigh to an Indiana Jigger 19

Do Not Look for Wisdom 21

Don’t Hang the Poets 22

There Will Never Be Another 24

Seventy-Three Years Later 25

Enoch 26

Call of the Whippoorwill 26

Promises 27

Dream Logic: Axioms and Syllogisms 28

Mulberry Tree 29

Daisy 30

The Wedding 31

Kirkuk and Eastern Ghouta 32

From Jerusalem to Bethlehem 32

The Old Colossus 33

Blowin’ in the Wind 34

The Butterflies of Oswiecim 34

Love’s Number 35

The Dementia Diaries 36

Things Not Human 40

Outside the Game 41

On Purpose 42

Looking for a Poem 44

The Blessing 46

Ellah and the Terebinth 47

Final Interpretation of Silence 48

Little Flame 48

But Until Such Time 49

Pantomime 50

Jedwabne 1941 51

Wars 52

23,645 53

I’ve Seen Death Come 54

Sacrilege? 55

Ori 56

Cat Alley 57

A Gravity 58

Our Proud Parades 59

Tolling the Bell 60

Rusty Nail Revisited 61

A Convocation of Eagles 62

Going on a Walk 63

Final Interpretation of Silence 64

On the Backs of Swallows 65

The Dead Don’t Envy the Living 66

Far from the Convocation of Souls 66

Love Is Not a Cage 67

All Things Begun in Heaven 68

A Walk in the Woods 69

Somewhere, Sometime, to Someone 70

The First Drops of Winter 71

Once More around the Carousel 72

Bridges to Otherness 73

Worthy Vessels 74

Theme and Four Variations on a Middle Eastern Tale 75

Dimdumim 77

Yom Kippur Eve 78

Waiting at the Barricades 80

The Wish Master 81

Dad’s Birthday 83

The Osprey and the Mullet 84

Praise Not the Wild Thing 85

A Dark Matter 86

The Mullet and the Osprey 88

The Osprey’s Wife 89

The Mullet’s Friend 90

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.

Ori

Raanana, June 22, 2018

You sit on my shoulders

And I hold your chubby legs

In my calloused hands.

Look, Saba, a flag!”

Take care, Oriki, the branches are low,”

I say. He ducks his head

And I duck my knees.

Look, Saba, the moon!”

And I think my light is weightless

On my shoulders

Like walking on the moon.

Notes:

  1. Saba” means “Grampa” in Hebrew.

  2. Ori” is a name meaning “my light” in Hebrew and “Oriki” is a diminutive of “Ori”.

Cat Alley

Raanana, July 20, 2018

On warm summer nights

The bats fly around like shadows

Darkening the starlit sky.

Daisy doesn’t give them much notice,

Her world encircles her daily walks

Around our self-absorbed neighborhood.

She measures time in stilted arthritic steps,

One thousand and one, one thousand and two,

One thousand and three,

And the speed of time is her perception of it.

The leaves hanging from the branches above us

Are silver-green in the mercurial lamplight

And those beneath us crunch under our step

In the violet and orange of death.

A small mouse on its side circles around itself

Beside a barren bush unable to stand or run

And I pull Daisy away from her curiosity of it.

It may survive the bats

But not the cats,

And the first thin light of morning

Will caress its tiny bones.

A Gravity

Raanana, July 21, 2018

Times like these I ask myself,

Would I still write poems if no one read them

Or there was no one to read them?

I guess it’s like Dad told me once that

A tree won’t check whether anyone is listening

Before it crashes to the ground.

I write them because

Because I’m crashing to the ground

Only the thing that I’m writing about

Is a ground with a gravity

Pulling me into it with its compelling

Until I am one with it.

Our Proud Parades

Raanana, July 22, 2018

I am the sum of all that came before me

The storytellers

The poets

The farmers

And the herders,

Those who walked in boots

Those who walked in sandals

Those who walked in moccasins

And those who walked barefoot,

Those who stalked on four legs

Those who crawled or slithered

Those who swam and those who flew,

As you are the sum of all that came before you.

We have been enemies and we’ve been friends

We are brothers and we are sisters

We have fought and we’ve made peace

And we have hated and we have loved.

We have memories in our cells

And our blood is a river

That began long before us

Running through us

Flowing downstream

Long after us,

We are the upward thrust of life.

Useless are our ideas of nation-states

Our ideas of us and them

Our proud parades

Against the parade of life.

Tolling the Bell

Raanana, July 24, 2018

Seven in the morning

The clock-radio switched on

The news gurgled amidst the static,

The last ship had left for Mars

And this would be the final transmission.

As if to prove a point

The static was all that remained.

I turned off the radio.

Not bad, I smirked to myself,

The power and water will be free

As long as it lasts.

I walked outside

Without locking the door

(another temporary benefit).

The streets were as empty as Yom Kippur.

The bees still buzzed over the clover

And birds chirped in the branches.

A few stray dogs and cats,

Left by humans to fend for themselves,

Look around themselves as if waking from a dream.

Walking down the middle of the road

As if on a tightrope

Past palms, olive, and mulberry

To a beach strewn with bottles and bags,

Garbage, condoms, and needles,

Our offerings to a disappointed Poseidon,

I wonder for whom the bell will toll

When no one’s left to toll the bell.

Rusty Nail Revisited

Raanana, July 25, 2018

I am a ghost

Time’s ghost,

Not yet dead

Not quite living,

Faded among the things

That interest the living,

The young and the beautiful

The bored and the cynical,

A photograph of erased memory

A phonograph record

Without a phonograph,

A rusty nail in a loose plank

In a roofless shack surrounded by fallen fences

By a pot-holed road nobody takes anymore.

The quite living move in all directions but one,

Space-like,

But the not quite move in only one,

Time-like,

Forward into the dark night

Unable to look back

Unable to stop or turn back,

Forward into the night.

A Convocation of Eagles

Raanana, July 28, 2018

By the time you read this

You’ll be far and away

Secure in the familiarity

Of your remote nest.

You flew to us as a convocation of eagles

Skimming the surface of our hearts

Wings braking against our desire.

At day’s end and manly drinking

We spoke of everything

But what mattered most to both of us,

And at your visit’s end

Your wide-spread wings beat the air

Forgetting your talons yet in our hearts,

Love is.

Going on a Walk

Raanana, August 2, 2018

Daisy and I often walk together

Each in our own worlds

Like the stone wall with green moss

And water dripping out of it,

But sometimes we walk together

Through our memories

Which are long in their shadows

Motherlove and crawling over siblings,

First fears and new loves

Of humans and new homes,

And other times we walk through our futures

But we only take short walks there

Since we’re both getting on in years.

The sunlight is golden in late afternoon

And so is our time.

Final Interpretation of Silence

Raanana, August 10, 2018

Today Death touched my friend’s lips

With her icy finger and silenced them,

Enfolding him in her long dark robes

And carrying him against her cold breast.

Across the wide sea, I stand alone now

Unable to cobble together a few words

To measure the greatness of my friend.

He called himself a wordsmith

But I called him a poet.

He knew the names of every flower,

Every bird and every cloud.

He could paint a picture in your mind

So detailed you’d swear you’d been there,

And if you called yourself a poet too,

You’d have died to write like him.

What a eulogy of himself he could have given

If Death had not taken away his breath first,

Now silence must be his eulogy

With nobody left to interpret it.

On the Backs of Swallows

(Inspired by Wendell Berry’s poetry)

Raanana, August 12, 2018

I’m not saying we won’t live forever eventually.

We may or may not.

City dwellers seem to think it so,

Detached as they are from the moist clods of dirt

That cleanses the soul,

The open skies riding on the backs of changeling swallows,

And the sweet-tasting water that flows from mountainsides

Into rock-strewn creek beds.

It’s just that a farmer knows too well

Of birth and death,

Planting his hands in the loam of earth

With seeds becoming apples or corn

Under his tender calloused hands

Which go back to seed in the seasons of their times.

He knows too well

That death makes way for life to bud

As life makes way for death’s decay,

Too well to hope to live forever,

Somehow rising above the seasons

To cheat the way things ought to be.

The Dead Don’t Envy the Living

(Inspired by Wendell Berry’s “Testament”)

Raanana, August 17, 2018

The dead don’t envy the living

Any more than the living envy the dead.

Who’s to say what’s the best state

For matter to be in

In the long run?

I would think the best,

For one above ground,

Is to make the most of what you are

And, for those below,

To make the least.

Far from the Convocation of Souls

Raanana, August 21, 2018

Bird shadow spills across the sunlit path

Evaporating as quickly as its spilt.

I look up to see a sparrowhawk hanging

From an upward thrust of August air

Then diving down to shock

Some small prey without a prayer.

Injustice screams while violence

Adjusts its grip until the scream is silenced

And evil-lution is advanced one way or other,

While I wonder whether

This is the same world I was born to

Or another, far from the convocation of souls.

Love Is Not a Cage

(inspired by Maya Angelou’s ‘Love Liberates’)

Raanana, August 24, 2018

Love is not a cage for keeping birds

For the songs you love to hear.

Love is not a pretty woman to hold your arm

And not your child to boast about

Among the friends you hate

But have to be with

Just in case they boast about their children.

Love is teaching the little bird to sing and fly

And opening the cage for its wings to stretch and beat the air

To sing to other birds who know its song

Even though your heart splits in two

Since that is what little birds want,

The woman whom you love as life itself,

And children too,

For love is the wing, the air,

And the song.

All Things Begun in Heaven

Raanana, August 29, 2018

Angels we were born

Through cracks of lightning

In swollen skies

And Satanic we will die

Consumed in time’s slow fires,

For all things begun in heaven

End in hell.

A Walk in the Woods

Raanana, August 30, 2018

A young man went for a walk in the woods

Down one path, then another.

He came to a small clearing

And sat down on a fallen log

To see and hear what could be seen and heard.

He saw a sparrow singing

From atop a eucalyptus tree

Beside a lazy summer creek

Where a speckled frog waited on a flat rock

For his next course to float by.

The sparrow sang ‘the sky is my world

And all my children await the delicacies

I will bring them’

But the young man only heard

The warbling and chir-rup chup chup.

The frog croaked ‘the creek is my world

And something succulent may grace my throat’

But the young man heard only

The frog’s cacophonous croak a-croak croak.

The eucalyptus whispered ‘the soil is my world

And my leaves soak up the sun’s sweetness’

But the young man only heard

The quiet rustling of the leaves

In the August breeze.

Somewhere, Sometime, to Someone

Raanana, September 6, 2018

One preacher opens church doors wide at night

To succor the homeless and the helpless

While another locks the doors against the thieves.

One imam speaks of love and peace

To anyone with an open heart

While another preaches death to infidels.

One soldier gives his food ration

To a hungry child

While another aims a joystick in the clouds.

One king honors poetry

And another hangs the poets.

Don’t look for truth in poetry

Though truth hides there

As certainly as souls hide in all things,

For everything a poet writes

Is true

somewhere

sometime

to someone.

The First Drops of Winter

Raanana, September 8, 2018

This morning

The first drops of winter

After a long drought,

A farmer raises eyes heavenward

Even the sandy soil,

The nibbled petals,

And the green-brown leaves

Raise themselves in silent toast –

To life, God,

To life.

Once More around the Carousel

Raanana, September 9, 2018

Once more pass around the ball of fire,

Who knows when we started counting?

Who knows when we’ll stop?

I know I’ve counted seventy-one so far,

But for what?

For what?

Time is not a circle or ellipse,

But a straight line

We can’t get off or on

Except our own.

A life is measured by what you have ahead of you

And what you’ve left behind.

Have you taken the good and bad?

Is what you’ve left mostly good?

Don’t bother looking at someone else’s line,

They all go on forever.

Bridges to Otherness

Inspired by Salena Godden’s “cathedral of otherness”

Raanana, September 10, 2018

Today is our new year.

I say ‘our’ because

It’s not everyone’s new year,

But that’s okay since

Everyone has a new year.

Some of us say everyone is a world

So if you kill someone

It’s as though you’ve destroyed a world,

But I think everyone is an island

Insufficient to himself.

I know I am myself,

Capable of changing

But not complete change.

I suspect it’s the same with you

Though you are not the same as me.

Together, we make a world

Sufficient for us all.

Then I thought about how ants

Build bridges of themselves

By stretching out

And hanging on to others

So some may cross to where they need to go

And get back home,

And then I thought of how

We need to get to somewhere else

Since that’s where otherness is,

Other ways of seeing

Other ways of thinking

Other ways of feeling

Other memories

Other possibilities

Other answers

Other questions,

And if you can’t cross a bridge

Then be a bridge.

Worthy Vessels

Raanana, September 11, 2018

O to sway and swoon to aria or fugue

Face contorted with sweat on brow

By notes and rests like well-tempered instruments,

The bodies of the players and the audience

Moved by music and the genius of the composer,

To be played by music has equal measure

To playing it, as two bodies coupled,

One receiving pleasure and the other giving it.

The same with courage and charity,

Though few swoon or sway to those.

The courageous spirit overflows its vessel

And the vessels of those who benefit

Receive every golden drop.

Seventeen years ago, today,

Courageous men and women crashed a plane

In an open field, far from town or road,

Instead of where their captors planned.

Let us, who have received the benefits of their courage,

Be worthy vessels of their spirit.

Theme and Four Variations on a Middle Eastern Tale

Raanana, September 13, 2018

Theme:

A scorpion met a tortoise on the bank of a wide river

And begged for the tortoise to carry him on his back

Across the river to the other side. “If I carry you,”

The tortoise said, “you will sting me

And we both will drown and die.”

Why would I sting you,” the scorpion answered,

When my life depends on yours to cross?”

That made sense to the tortoise

Who let the scorpion climb on his back

And quickly entered the deep waters.

Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the tortoise

Who gasped, “Why?” The scorpion said,

It’s my nature.”

Variation #1:

Scorpions are the chosen of Al-Scorpio

As written in the Holy Sands.

They were here long before the tortoises

Who are weak and hateful in His eyes.

A scorpion who kills a tortoise

Will ascend straight to heaven,

And so the scorpion approached the tortoise

On the bank of the wide river.

Variation #2:

Scorpions have been subjugated since before memory

By the tortoises who stole their venom to sell for profit

And use in their ceremonies.

Scorpions, rise up against their evil by any means.

Take back what is ours!

The scorpion approached the tortoise

With stealth and cunning.

Variation #3:

Tortoises are the chosen of El-Tortoise

As written in the Holy Waters.

They were here long before the scorpions

Who are stupid and jealous of His glory.

El-Tortoise will protect us and keep us

From the poisonous scorpions,

And so the tortoise was surprised by the scorpion

On the bank of the wide river.

Variation #4:

Tortoises are more evolved than scorpions

As proven by our science.

We can swim across the waters

And find new places to lay our eggs.

The scorpions may hate us in their envy

But they need us to cross the river.

And so the tortoise was sympathetic to the scorpion

On the bank of the river.

Dimdumim

Raanana, September 14, 2018

Here they call it dimdumim

But you call it twilight,

Still light when the orange sun

Sinks behind the distant trees

Or the purple sea under the far horizon

And the colors of the things around you,

The whites, the browns, and the greens,

The grass and trees, even the faces of people,

Bleed into gray, move farther away than before,

Not yet dark, yes, darkening perhaps,

But not quite dark. Suddenly the air

Through which you wade cools slightly,

Is easier to breathe, making you almost weightless,

Waiting for the absolute darkness of night.

In its obscurity possibilities hide,

Almost anything can happen

In the cool darkness

And the obscurity takes any shape

That thoughts can touch.

When night does come

You never see just when

The dimdumim disappears.

Yom Kippur Eve

Raanana, September 18, 2018

Another hour,

A few cars can be heard outside the window

But the still quiet is setting in

And time slows down.

Anticipation is so thick

You can almost lean against it.

Soon the children will flood into the empty streets,

Preferring them to the empty sidewalks,

As all things not human recede among

The night shadows.

One last car hurries home,

Another twenty minutes

And it will rise above our land

Like a full moon, engorged and portentous,

This evening, this Yom Kippur.

It is here,

Here and now.

The cars have stopped and the roads are empty,

The temple doors and windows fly open

And a swell of voices ascends godward

From the bastions of a sacred time,

From the land of broken promises,

To God knows where.

In this sliver of land

Between the sea and our enemies

Time stops and space too,

But only here.

Outside our borders

Time goes on and space too

As though it were just another day

Of honking cars and daily business,

Of idle gossip and preparations for war,

The games go on.

But even here there are places

Where time goes on and space too,

In a room underneath a mountain

Where some children watch screens

And above the clouds a jet pilot

Scans our horizons

And lone soldiers stand guard

So that time can stop and space too

For the rest of us,

Because God protects those

Who protect themselves.

Waiting at the Barricades

Raanana, September 20, 2018

The barricades are down

And the red lights are flashing.

Waiting, I turn on the radio

And the music dribbles out, thin and whiny.

I look into the eyes of the driver across the tracks

And see unplumbed depths of boredom.

Corn stalks stretch lazily as far as the eye can see

In all directions.

Finally it comes, a poem rushing past

Our barricade and flashing lights.

It’s a long one,

Verse after verse after verse.

Long verses clackety clacking over the tracks,

Carrying God knows what.

The first line is already out of sight

But the verses keep rushing past.

Then, as suddenly as it arrived,

It was gone.

The barricades rose up in the air

And the red lights stopped flashing.

The driver across the tracks and I exchanged knowing glances

Though we didn’t really know anything in particular

And I shifted into gear.

We drove past each other without a second glance,

Each concentrating on making up lost time,

But I thought to myself, next time

A poem comes up these tracks,

I’ll just park myself in the middle of those tracks

Between the two barricades.

The Wish Master

Raanana, September 22, 2018

There once was a young man who shall be nameless

For reasons of privacy and boldness of thought

For which he was certainly blameless.

One night ere going to sleep he bore a wish that was naught

But the grandest most comprehensive request

That anyone could want for himself,

Or so he thought as he lay down to rest,

Dreaming of undreamed of wealth,

And next morning awoke with a resolution

To go to the Wish Master notwithstanding his seclusion.

Now the Wish Master lived at the end of the world

And the top of the highest heights

Which was sunk to the depths in a pool that whirled,

So it took the young man many days and nights

And all his gold coins to reach the world’s end,

Anticipate each risk and survive each disaster

To meet the sought-after Wish Master.

After an initial exchange of pleasantry

The Wish Master asked, What is your wish?

The young man answered, What I want is rather grandish,

And the Master asked, Can’t you speak more transparently?

The young man said, Thus my wish may be unfurled:

I want to live forever, youthful and healthy,

Surrounded by the most beautiful women in the world,

Each dreaming of me romantically in her belfry,

While having the finest poems in all the world sung in key,

And having the wisest wisdom in all the world read to me.

The Wish Master pondered his wish for a moment

And said, that’s surely the best wish I’ve heard

But are you sure that would give you enjoyment?

The young man answered, sure, undeterred.

Well, the Wish Master offered, if I were in your shoes,

I’d want time to enjoy each woman’s treasure

And time for the finest poems and breakthroughs

To seep into my soul, and abide there forever and ever,

Believe me, immortality’s a soul’s worst curse.

No matter how good a thing you do or have done to you,

To have it done forever, there’s nothing worse.

The young man asked, how long a time to do it true,

To enjoy beauty, poetry, and wise endowment?

Well, that depends, the Wish Master said,

For some souls, the time is hardly a moment

For others, from the day you’re born til the day you’re dead.

The young man thanked the Wish Master

And returned home back the same way he had sought,

No wishes left to be answered,

Though he was generally satisfied with his lot.

Dad’s Birthday

Raanana, September 28, 2018

Today’s your birthday.

I’ve been thinking about it since last night,

About the one advantage death confers is

You can be any age you want

In my mind.

I think I loved you most

When you and I were young.

You told me stories,

Stories how you saved me from a scorpion,

Stories of Ron, the dog, who came back,

And stories of piloting a ship through space,

While holding me in your lap,

Faintly smelling of Cherry Blend

And a day’s work on the road.

How I loved those smells

That smelled of you.

I knew, even when I was just a child,

Those stories weren’t true

But now I am older

I know that stories are better than truths.

The world is full of truths we’ll never know

But even if we knew them,

They couldn’t hold a candle to

The stories my dad told me.

The Osprey and the Mullet

Raanana, October 1, 2018

A lone osprey spreads his wings

Motionless above the river’s fog,

His wife guarding their nest of precious young

Hungry, impatient, yet waiting for his return,

He ignores for now the distant sea,

Hovering, watchful, hungry too.

Suddenly the sound of leaping mullet

Pierces the white fog

And he drops through the fog,

Talons spread in readiness.

The fish flies in the clutches of talons

Under strong wings pounding the air

Toward the nearing nest,

A double being,

Surviving yet dying.

Praise Not the Wild Thing

Raanana, October 1, 2018

The praise we heap on wild creatures,

Panthers, bears, deer, and bees,

It falls on them like light rain

And is sloughed off without a thought.

No, they need not our gaze

From safe distances,

Glib domestication of all we see.

What we attribute as their beauty

Or their usefulness

Fall far from their mark.

For the wild thing

There is no question but existence

Here and now.

A Dark Matter

Raanana, October 4, 2018

I see you everywhere I go

You follow me even into the bedroom

And crawl into bed beside me

Entering my dreams.

You are the dark sun shining your dark photons,

Your shadows are my only light.

You are every age you’ve ever been,

You are the idea of you

Just after I discovered I was pregnant,

You are this thing growing in my belly

Now, this homunculus bursting from my womb

Suckling my breast,

And suddenly you are human,

Helpless, still inchoate, primal.

Then you see me seeing you and you smile,

You crawl, you stand unsteadily on your feet

And then you start to run.

You hold my hand, going to the nursery

And won’t let go.

Suddenly you’re holding her hand

Going to the Homecoming

In our car.

Then you come home

From the place you can’t talk about,

Your uniform full of grease and stench

Which I wash and iron throughout the night,

Then they knock on the door

And tell us you can’t come home,

That we can’t see your body

Because there’s nothing left to see.

When you were alive,

You were just a single person

In just one place, nowhere else.

Now that you are dead,

All of you,

The idea of you, the homunculus,

The primal human,

The little boy holding my hand,

The young man holding her hand,

The soldier coming home,

The soldier never coming home again,

Are everywhere, all the time.

You are my darkness,

I want no other light.

Your absence is so palpable to me

I don’t think I could live without it.

The Mullet and the Osprey

Raanana, October 7, 2018

O what a perfect day

Fragments of dappled sunlight play on rocks

Swimming is effortless as

We fly over and between the smooth rocks

One with the browngreen flow of water,

My friends on either side of me.

Days like these make me happy

For no reason whatsoever.

My friend leaps with joy into the breathless air

And like a ripple, his friend leaps too.

Now it is my turn to leap above the water

O joy!

O stabbing pain!

I can’t breathe, release me, pray!

O horror, stab and crush of talons,

The thud of wings pounds the air

Death awaits me in the nearing nest,

Death, pray, release me from life’s pain.

The Osprey’s Wife

Raanana, October 9, 2018

Kee, kee, kee,

There he goes again flying away from us

Without a word of where he’s headed.

Of course, I worry,

He is strong and a good provider

But there are stronger than him in the sky

And while I wait for his return

Protecting our young with my cheereek!

There are others in the sky

Who would invade our nest

And kill the children

But I would fight them to the death,

Cheereek! Stay away from us, cheereek!

What if he doesn’t return,

My husband, their father?

What if he doesn’t return?

But what is this small sound I hear

From far away?

Did I hear his kee, key, kee?

He is coming, his massive wings,

Pounding the distance into nearness,

Carrying a beak-watering mullet in strong talons!

The young ones barely hold their joy –

Kee, kee, kee!

Bless this meal for which we wait

And bless my husband’s return!

The Mullet’s Friend

Raanana, October 10, 2018

Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more because God took him away” from the Old Testament, Chapter 5, Verse 24

O what a perfect day

The dappled sunlight dances on the rocks

And the swimming is effortless.

We fly through the shallow water,

My friends on either side of me.

Days like these make us happy

For no reason whatsoever.

My friend leaps and dives through the air

And like a ripple, I leap and dive too O joy!

Now my friend takes his turn

To leap into the sunlit air,

But then he was no more.

His friend leaps and dives

But fear and sadness ripple through us all.

Who among us will tell his wife

And who among us can say

What was or will be?

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