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.
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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.
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.
Raanana, December 16, 2017
When I think of the
Seasons of our galaxy,
We live as mayflies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Raanana, January 6, 2018
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?
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.
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?
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?
Raanana, January 15, 2018
Silence looks clear.
Silence feels lonely.
Silence tastes watery.
Silence smells fresh.
Warmth looks mauve.
Warmth sounds like a bow drawn across cello strings.
Warmth tastes like spice wine.
Warmth smells like your mother’s perfume.
Naked sounds true.
Naked feels both vulnerable and voluptuous.
Naked tastes bitter-sweet.
Naked smells like ginkgo trees during Autumn.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(an alternate plaque for our Statue of Liberty)
Raanana, February 16, 2018
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,
or another water to love?
Or have you no soul anymore
to love any land,
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?
(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.
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.
Raanana, February 12, 2018
I’ve often thought
That love should be
Assigned a number.
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
Couples split apart
And hearts are
Non-repeating decimal I’d think
May never come again.
If love were numbered
We could add up unloved numbers
Til we reach it.
Raanana, February 25, 2018
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’s writing it like a poem
Though I don’t think
My life is too poetic
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.
What’s this doing here?
I didn’t say
Any of this stuff.
I don’t need a diary,
My memory’s fine.
As long as you’re asking,
I’m not doing so well today.
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
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
Would I lie to you?
Do I think you’d lie to me?
I guess not.
Maybe I’m losing my mind.
I can only talk
For a few minutes today.
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 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?
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.
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.
If what you say
And this is all I have
And all there is
And what I think is true
Then what use is there
Nobody comes to visit me
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.
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?
I don’t know anyone like that.
Don’t know anyone.
Maybe I’ll hop a plane
And come to you.
Raanana, February 27, 2018
Beauty is a human value.
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
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
Time stops, then stutters,
Unaware of what is
Outside the game.
Raanana, March 4, 2018
The purpose of the universe,
If you call it purpose,
Is to fill up every corner of it
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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,
Like an astronaut cut loose in space.
Time stops for her
Though I go on.
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.
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.
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
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,
And all the others in between
Make a number that keeps on being
Scratched out and rewritten.
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.
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.
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.
“Saba” means “Grampa” in Hebrew.
“Ori” is a name meaning “my light” in Hebrew and “Oriki” is a diminutive of “Ori”.
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.
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.
Raanana, July 22, 2018
I am the sum of all that came before me
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
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.
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.
Raanana, July 25, 2018
I am a 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,
But the not quite move in only one,
Forward into the dark night
Unable to look back
Unable to stop or turn back,
Forward into the night.
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,
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.
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.
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.