Ode to Little Things

A little bird thinking of flying for the first time

Ode to Little Things

Copyright © 2021 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

Foreword……………………………………………………………………………….. 4

Poems……………………………………………………………………………………. 5

Ode to Little Things………………………………………………………………… 6

Things Great and Small……………………………………………………………. 7

The Man in the Mirror…………………………………………………………….. 8

A Poem Can Be a Small Thing……………………………………………………. 9

Transmigration of a Soul………………………………………………………… 10

Elvira…………………………………………………………………………………. 12

What Do You Call………………………………………………………………….. 13

Prayer of One………………………………………………………………………. 14

Zero through Infinity……………………………………………………………… 16

Dying Lights…………………………………………………………………………. 18

Dream Marriage…………………………………………………………………… 20

Tisha B’Av…………………………………………………………………………… 28

Thoughts on Tisha B’Av………………………………………………………….. 30

Yin and Yang………………………………………………………………………… 31

Small Steps………………………………………………………………………….. 32

Wounds……………………………………………………………………………… 34

Stealing Fire from the Future…………………………………………………… 35

A Constellation of Starlings…………………………………………………….. 36

In Good Time……………………………………………………………………….. 38

Minds, Hearts, and Souls………………………………………………………… 39

In Memory of that Gift…………………………………………………………… 41

The Age of Innocence……………………………………………………………. 42

The Sentinel………………………………………………………………………… 44

We Are Each Other’s Heaven…………………………………………………… 47

Far from the City Lights………………………………………………………….. 47

The Day I Found out My Dad Was Human………………………………….. 48

Many Reasons……………………………………………………………………… 49

Many More Reasons……………………………………………………………… 50

Hamlet’s Soliloquy Revisited…………………………………………………… 51

I’m Going to Miss You……………………………………………………………. 53

The Levant Sparrowhawk……………………………………………………….. 54

How to Read a Poem…………………………………………………………….. 57

North Star…………………………………………………………………………… 58

Imagine #1………………………………………………………………………….. 59

A Thought…………………………………………………………………………… 60

A Soul………………………………………………………………………………… 61

Celluloid……………………………………………………………………………… 63

A Nine-Eleven Haiku……………………………………………………………… 64

Day of Atonement………………………………………………………………… 65

Yom Kippur…………………………………………………………………………. 66

If God Is Infinite……………………………………………………………………. 68

We’ll Have a Cup of Coffee……………………………………………………… 69

Poems for Linda……………………………………………………………………. 71

Before It’s Too Late……………………………………………………………….. 72

Running Naked…………………………………………………………………….. 73

This Old Bag of Bones……………………………………………………………. 74

Things that Are Weird……………………………………………………………. 75

Interpretations of Silence……………………………………………………….. 76

Gödel’s Unfinished Cacophony, Opus 101………………………………….. 77

Other Eyes………………………………………………………………………….. 80

Flowers and Skies…………………………………………………………………. 81

Tell Him I Like Surprises…………………………………………………………. 81

Wampum……………………………………………………………………………. 82

A Billiard Table of a Universe…………………………………………………… 83

Foreword


Poems

Ode to Little Things

Let us now praise little voices

Barely heard, and then only in solitude,

Far from what is practicable,

The weak conjectures still-born

Among the raucous laughter of normal people,

The timorous uncertainties that

Find no voice to express them

Among the roar of monolithic knowledge.

The premature idea unsure of itself

Takes tentative steps toward

The welcoming arms of Scylla and Charybdis.

Like a small bird falling

Perhaps to fly, wings flailing against hard-hearted earth,

Like a ghost of love pitting itself against

The engulfing silence of death.

Let us praise these little things,

Not with heralding trumpets

And ticker-tape parades,

But with the subdued quiet

Of recognition.

August 21, 2008

Things Great and Small

The world is full of things great and small.

Of things great much has been written or described

But of things small little has been attended to,

Though the great are very few

And the small are many.

God knows we need the small

To make a world.

The cheetah is the fastest in the land,

The peregrine is even faster in the air,

And nothing’s slower than a snail

(Except perhaps a tree),

But snails will win more races

Than all the cheetahs and peregrines

On a summer’s rainy day.

Who will write of little birds

And their love of being little

Now that you are gone

An’ all gang aft agley?

                        June 16, 2021

The Man in the Mirror

And one day,

Perhaps long after we have

Made peace with our enemies,

Maybe we will turn to the more difficult task

Of making peace within our borders,

To sit down together at one table,

And share our common blessings.

And only then

Will we be able to make peace

With the man in the mirror.

                                    June 17, 2021

A Poem Can Be a Small Thing

One summer afternoon

A little like today

Just before the Sabbath evening

While I lay in bed waiting

For the refreshment of sleep,

A thought popped into my mind

As thoughts are wont to do at times:

What is the difference between

Death and poetry?

I thought death can be a huge and monstrous thing

When hatred stands behind a madding crowd

Or hatches plots from fiendish eggs,

But then I thought death can also be

A small thing you put in your pocket

Like a poem or a poison pill

For times when life proves worse than death

When even God becomes demented in his old age.

Then the voices of squealing children

From the open windows woke me

And I thought that life

Was still good to me.

                        June 18, 2021

Transmigration of a Soul

I’m not saying that I believe in

The transmigration of souls but

A few months after Daisy died

A fly must have come in through

The open window because

I noticed it on the wall by my desk.

Normally I shoo flies away

Whenever I see them but this time

Something softened in my heart

And I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

I returned to my writing and

The next time I looked up

The fly was still on the wall.

Slowly I placed my hand

On the wall next to the fly

But the fly did not flit away

As flies often do. I lowered my hand.

Later that night I closed the window

Turned off the light and went to bed.

In the morning, the fly was still there

So I opened the window

And returned to my writing

But the fly stayed on the wall beside me.

This continued for several days

Until one morning when I came into the room

I found the fly on its back unmoving.

Again, something softened in my heart.

I gently lifted the fly in my hand,

Took it outside and laid it gently

Among the blades of cool grass.

I don’t know why I thought of this

Just now, but maybe death comes back

Once in a while to softly remind us

Of love’s loss and transmigration.

                                    June 20, 2021

Elvira

He flipped through the record albums

Looking for that one, the one

He listened to at times like these

Until he found it: Mozart’s

Piano Concerto, Number twenty-one

In C Major. He laid the record gently on the turntable,

Aligning the record hole and turntable spindle.

He raised the tonearm and lowered the needle

Carefully over the second band,

The Second Movement, the Andante,

 “Elvira Madigan”. He preferred the minor keys.

He sat down beside the phonograph,

Eyes closed, and conducted the concerto

Dreamily with a raised index finger,

Slower and slower, until it was out of sync

With the distant music from the speakers.

He remembered the last scene,

A grainy photograph,

A shot, and then another shot.

He remembered the young girl with whom

He had seen the movie,

Nothing so dramatic as the two shots

But she was dead too,

Cancer, so unceremoniously.

Enough of gestures and ceremonies

He thought. The needle skidded

Against the inner spiral of the record label

Over and over and over

And over.

                                    June 29, 2021

What Do You Call

What do you call the moment

Between dusk and night?

What do you call the invisible lines

That connect the stars in constellations?

What do you call a thing

That’s neither living nor dead?

What do you call the last number

Before infinity?

What do you call

A universe that can’t exist?

What do you call a person without a soul?

What do you call a poem without words?

                                    July 1, 2021

Prayer of One

One earth,

Let it be

As it was,

As it will be

If we just

Let it be.

One life,

Let it be filled

To the brim,

Let it not be wasted.

One body,

Let it be

A temple,

A vehicle,

An offering.

One soul,

Let it love,

Let it live life,

But when life is done

Let it return to the One.

                        July 2, 2021

Zero through Infinity

Zero –

Before anything,

After everything.

No place you have to be,

No time you have to be there.

If it’s a true vacuum,

Then who needs a vacuum cleaner?

But what if it’s a false vacuum,

A vacuum filled with forms and ideals?

With possibilities and futures?

Is it much ado about nothing?

One –

One birth, one life, one death,

One loneliness,

One universe that blew up perhaps

From the lips of a false vacuum,

One bored God

With too much time on His hands.

Two –

Two lonely people grow into one

Existence, the only thing

That makes life bearable

For the briefest moment.

Three –

The product of two that are one,

The product of life that aims

At immortality but often

Falls short.

The last number

Is the number before infinity.

Its name would take you

All the time left in the universe

Just to say it.

                        July 4, 2021

Dying Lights

I dreamed of my father

On his death bed

Trying to strip himself naked

Held back by my sister’s loving arms

Until death’s arms held him

And my mother calmly repeating

Her litany of prayers,

The Shema, the blessing over the bread,

The one over the wine,

Over and over again

While I stood by her bed helplessly,

Both long in the ground

At peace,

And I said to death

You don’t need to make an appointment,

Come when you will,

But then I know

When I see it cross the threshold,

I’ll say wait a moment for me,

I just want to tell her one more time

How much I love her,

And our sons –

I just want to tell them it’s not so bad

And what to expect

(Could you first tell me what to expect?),

And I want to bring Daisy’s leash

Just in case, or do they run free?

And will everyone I leave that I love

Be okay, at least until you come for them?

(What about global warming

And that asteroid?)

And and and –

                        July 6, 2021

Dream Marriage

(Inspired by Kurt Tong’s “Dear Franklin”)

This is a story about Thu Mai and Joe Lee,

A story ripped out of a Book of Life,

A story told out of sequence

Like unbound pages whisked away

On a mischievous breeze.

*

Joe Lee didn’t want to kill anyone

Or get killed either, but he painted

Watercolors like nobody’s business,

So when the Marines drafted him

They made him a Gyrene artist.

His job was to witness all the gore

With all its glory and paint it for Uncle Sam.

You may have seen that painting of his

Of a skinny little naked girl

Walking and crying away from

A burning village hanging

In the city museum.

*

Thu Mai came from a land where

Napalm-breathing dragons roamed the skies

And bombs went off in the damnedest places,

Where the enemy was always closing in

Like a noose slowly tightening

Around her family’s necks.

*

Her parents stuffed all they could carry

Into a couple of suitcases

And paid dearly for a place in a frail boat

With a sail on the angry seas and a prayer

That some freighter would see them,

Take pity and rescue them

Like some message in a bottle

Cast upon the waves.

*

Joe somehow survived that war

If you call nightmares every night

And shakes during the day surviving.

He couldn’t do much painting after that.

He wasn’t any good at work

And not much fun on dates.

*

Thu Mai’s parents thanked the local gods

And their intervening ancestors

When the freighter churned toward them

Though it almost swallowed them

In the suck of its undercurrent.

They prayed everything would just keep still

Till they could grasp the proffered ladder

That kept coming close and jerking away

In the bobbing and swaying with the waves.

*

The sailors gave them warm blankets,

Food and tea, a place to sleep,

And let them off at a San Francisco dock.

*

Joe wasn’t good for much of anything

But he started writing poetry at night

And found a job during the day

As a computer tech to pay his bills.

He met this girl at a park nearby.

As the thread of life slowly unravelled

The nightmares got less and less scary

And finally disappeared altogether.

*

Joe married Beatrice and they had kids.

They moved to New York and

The kids grew up and had their own kids.

Their lives were pretty comfortable

With not much to complain about.

*

Life was not easy for

An immigrant family like Thu Mai’s.

In spite of all the taunts and threats

She got through school, went to college,

And studied literature.

Her mother tried to hold the family together

But she couldn’t even hold herself together.

One day Thu Mai came home and

Found her mother hanging from

The bathroom doorknob and

Her father died soon after.

*

Joe had read an ad in the local rag

About a poetry reading at a downtown bar.

He decided, what the hell, and went to listen.

*

Thu Mai moved to New York and

Found work translating poetry during the day

But at night she wrote her own poetry

And read some of her poems at a local bar.

*

Joe sat in the darkness mesmerized

By Thu Mai’s voice whispered into the microphone

As she stood so lonely in that stark light cone.

Married Joe, Father Joe, and Grampa Joe

Couldn’t help but think about that voice,

How he fell in love with it

As though he were young and single again.

Her voice softened into silence

And she descended into darkness

As the next poet was introduced.

After the last poet read his poem,

An open mic was announced.

Joe entered the cone of light,

Pulled a poem out of his pocket,

And read it to the darkness.

*

Outside on the sidewalk Thu Mai

Was surrounded by fellow poets.

Joe walked around them

And flagged down a cab

That took him home.

*

One day, Thu Mai saw an ad in the paper

About an exhibit of photos and paintings

From her old country during the war.

She usually avoided anything associated

With those days and the old country.

She didn’t know why but she decided to go.

She entered the revolving doors reluctantly

And purchased a ticket.

Thu Mai walked slowly from room to room,

Examining the photographs and reading

The titles and descriptions of each one

Until she came to the painting

Of a skinny little naked girl

Walking and crying away from

A burning village,

Her grandparents’ village.

Thu Mai felt naked again

Though she was fully dressed

And she looked around her to see

Whether someone was watching her

But she was all alone.

*

Joe went back to that bar from time to time

When the poetry group was reading there.

Often Thu Mai would read her poems too.

Joe’s spirit soared weightlessly those nights

But he loved Beatrice and the kids and

Would never do anything that might hurt them;

Besides, he was old enough to be Thu Mai’s father.

*

They exchanged emails and poetry.

That’s when Thu Mai saw his name and

Remembered the name on the painting

At the museum, “Joe Lee”.

She told Joe she was the little girl,

The one who was crying

In his painting. She visited him that night

In a dream or a nightmare,

Joe couldn’t tell which.

*

Joe felt guilty for witnessing reality

While being detached from it and

Once more the dreams tormented him.

*

Thu Mai married a man who made her laugh

Which was not a small thing considering

What she had gone through in her life

And she gave birth to a lovely haiku of a child.

*

Joe’s dreams continued to oppress him

And he worried he might call out her name

In his sleep. That day, he’d read a story

About a ghost marriage in China

And in his dream that night

Joe married Thu Mai,

Just two ghosts drifting on a brain wave

Under a moon, not hurting anybody.

The dreams continued almost every night

And Joe’s wife who lay beside him

Felt happy he was sleeping more calmly.

During days, Joe seemed more accessible

And present when they were together,

Which was pretty much all the time.

*

And when death finally came for Joe,

It had a difficult time choosing

Whether to take him during the day

Or night, but in the end

It didn’t really matter.

                                    July 15, 2021

Note: Thu Mai means Autumn Plum Flower in Vietnamese.

Tisha B’Av

The Universe,

The Multiverse,

And God

Are the same thing.

They are other words

For what we think we know

And what we know we don’t know.

Some say God moves in mysterious ways

Which means we haven’t a clue

What He does or why He does

Or doesn’t do it.

Nobody can describe Him

But we think we know His commandments.

Dark matter and dark energy

Are most of the stuff in the universe

About which we haven’t a clue

What it is or how it works

And the multiverse is so far away,

It can’t affect us and we’ll never reach it.

Priests, Imams, and Rabbis believe in God

While theoreticians believe in a multiverse

And scientists believe in the universe.

What is said about one

Can be said about the others.

On the eve of Tisha B’Av,

The Fast commemorating the destruction

Of the first and second Temples,

Let us not build a third Temple,

But instead, be more modest

About what we think we know,

More tolerant of what we don’t know,

And try not to destroy each other

Over the difference between six of one

And half a dozen of the other.

Amen.

                        July 16, 2021

Thoughts on Tisha B’Av

Thinking about the destruction

Of the first and second temples,

Every time we raise our heads

From the muddy trenches

Someone goes and puts a bullet

Or piece of shrapnel through it.

Maybe we shouldn’t build a third one.

                        July 18, 2021

Yin and Yang

Nothing, then something

Then nothing again.

Change, then return.

Creation, then destruction

Then out of destruction, creation.

When something is created

Its opposite is also created.

The more of one

The less of the other.

The more grows less and less

While the less grows more and more

Until everything or nothing.

Left and right

Male and female

Life and death

Inhale exhale

A whirling yin-yang.

The way it is

Is the way it must be.

Remove one and the rest

Comes crashing down.

            July 18, 2021

Small Steps

Sometimes tragedy takes small steps

Barely noticeable going forward

Easily visible tracing back

From ground zero, like

Your finger resting on a trigger

A random neural flux or twitch –

And a bullet spits its long trajectory

Toward a schoolgirl’s skull

That would fail to protect her brain

On which the cure for cancer

Would have depended

And countless other futures.

*

True, it was an accident

That could have happened to anyone

Whose finger rested on a trigger.

*

Now, suppose you had removed your finger

From the trigger, not too far,

Perhaps a second away from the trigger housing,

And your enemy did the same,

Suppose you lowered your rifle a degree or so

And your enemy did so too,

And suppose you lowered another degree

And so did your enemy,

And so on and so forth

Until your rifles lay at your feet.

And suppose you both walked down

To the creek through which

The border meandered

And shared your food rations

With each other.

*

Perhaps peace between us

Also takes tiny steps

Like an infant taking first steps

And futures appear out of nowhere,

But in any case, on that day

A schoolgirl didn’t die.

                        July 21, 2021

Wounds

Wounded in action,

Wounded inaction.

There are many kinds of wounds,

Wounds you can see

And those you can’t see.

Some wounds come to you

And some wait for you

To come to them.

Some wounds become you,

Taking over your identity,

Wearing your clothes,

Taking your kids to the playground,

Making love to your wife

Instead of you.

Time can’t heal a wound;

Neither can space.

Wounds are tunnels

You have to go through

To get to the other side.

                        July 23, 2021

Stealing Fire from the Future

Writing a poem is like reading a book,

Only the book doesn’t exist yet.

You have to write it first.

So, you’re reading this blank page,

Waiting for that first word

To wiggle out of the whiteness

And then, pop! goes the weasel.

You still have no clue about

What it’s trying to tell you

Until the next word joins the fray.

By the third word, you’re wondering

How to end the first line.

After you’ve figured that one out

You wonder where it’s going from there.

Once you’ve reached the fourth line,

You realize it won’t be a haiku;

Maybe a tanka, you’ll have to wait and see.

By now, you are writing the poem

Almost as fast as you can read it.

See? It’s as easy as

Stealing fire from the future.

                        July 23, 2021

A Constellation of Starlings

Do you remember when

We lay down together

On a grassy hill that night

After the concert and looked up

At the wheeling constellations?

We held each other’s hand

And you asked me to tell you

A story about creation;

Not The Creation, mind you,

But a creation;

Didn’t matter what.

So, I told you how one night

There was a faint murmuring

From far away that

You could scarcely hear

And looked up at the naked sky.

You saw a constellation of starlings

Winging darkly across

The night’s pregnant belly

And suddenly a small murmur of them

Turned toward you and coalesced

Into the shape of a man.

You asked him to tell you a story too

And when he spoke,

Small birds flew out of his mouth

Singing sweet lullabies.

When you woke

In the warm sunlight

He was gone

But the tree branches were filled

With murmuring starlings.

                        July 26, 2021

In Good Time

Every so often,

But not so often that it sinks in,

I am reminded that nothing

In my life is owned,

Only loaned

And much is owed

But all will be returned

In good time.

The more precious it is,

The more difficult it is,

But maybe that is something.

                        July 30, 2021

Minds, Hearts, and Souls

The smallest minds know only

The intricacies of destruction.

Small minds are proud of what they know:

Cooking, fixing cars, and fishing.

Bigger minds concern themselves with

What they know they don’t know.

The greatest minds concern themselves with

What they don’t know that they don’t know.

The smallest hearts pump only blood,

No matter whose.

Small hearts are proud of what they keep out,

Especially love, especially love.

Bigger hearts love only what is

Inside their boundaries.

The greatest hearts know no

Bounds for love.

The smallest souls believe God

Only loves them and damns the rest.

Small souls believe only people

Can have souls.

Bigger souls believe everything

Can have a soul.

The greatest souls can see

The souls of others.

                        August 4, 2021

In Memory of that Gift

It’s not a question of beauty

Although it is the most beautiful thing imaginable.

Neither is it a question of value

Though it is more valuable than anything else.

Perhaps it’s that it’s the first time.

Never will it return in exactly the same way,

Even though it is repeated in every detail,

That first time you both stood naked

In each other’s eyes,

Withholding nothing,

Offering each other the gift

Of everything you have

And everything you are.

That first time was the most precious gift

You both could give,

And it is in memory of that gift

That the rest of your lives together

Will be lived and loved.

                        August 5, 2021

The Age of Innocence

I guess there are still a few people alive

Who remember when you shot the enemy

With index fingers or rifle-shaped branches

Shouting pow or bang loudly, sharply,

Or you threw a grenade that went kaboom

And you and the enemy argued whether

Or not he was dead, and he had to

Count to a hundred by ones

Before he could get up again.

If you didn’t have any friends

Willing to be enemies,

You could use your mom’s clothespins

As enemies and kill them

With a rubber band pulled back

From your finger and released.

Well, it’s not like that anymore.

Kids have AK47’s and bump stock AR-15’s

Or maybe their dad’s hand grenades

From his war memento drawer.

You don’t have to shout pow, bang, or kaboom

And nobody argues whether he’s dead or not.

I wish we could go back to those old days,

The age of our innocence,

But that’s the thing about escalation –

You start out killing in your imagination

And it ends up for real.

                                    August 6, 2021

The Sentinel

The canary in the coal mine, that’s what poets are.

Most of us are like those burly coal miners

Who went down with their pickaxes

Too busy chopping away those black walls

To smell the air turning poisonous

And get out in time.

They knew they needed someone or something

Like those canaries to warn them in time to get out.

We go about our daily lives chopping away

At that American Dream, unable

To smell the air turning poisonous,

And get out to something better, cleaner.

We don’t know that’s what poets are for.

They’re the first to smell the air turn rancid

With the stink of politics and neighbors

Divided against each other.

They’re the first to feel what you can’t feel,

Smell what you can’t smell,

And they’re the ones who’ll tell you

Which way is out.

                                    August 7, 2021

We Are Each Other’s Heaven

There is nothing else.

We are each other’s hell,

Each other’s heaven,

And I wouldn’t want it

Any other way.

            August 8, 2021

Far from the City Lights

Far from the city lights

Out in the desert

Where the shadows are swallowed

By the night,

Above us time flows in all directions

Arcing across space unfolding

Forever and confounding us

With the impossibilities of its

Possibilities. There is no language

That contains the wonder and terror

Of what can’t be described.

                        August 12, 2021

The Day I Found out My Dad Was Human

I don’t remember the exact day but

I couldn’t have been more than three.

Dad lifted me up easily and stood me

On top of the Frigidaire. He must have been

Twenty-two or twenty-three. Dad told me

To jump and I jumped into his

Open arms. He caught me and told me,

“I might not have caught you, Afterall,

I’m only human. I could have missed you.

Never jump off a Fridge into anyone’s arms

Even if they say they’ll catch you,”

And I never did again. Afterall,

You can’t trust humans, can you?

                        August 14, 2021

Many Reasons

No bees left to tell the terrible things that befell us

Flowers gone and their beauty gone with them

No animals to share our burden and our love

The trees gone up in smoke and flames

The rivers dried up, the seas receded

The air stale, not enough to catch a breath

The dementia pandemia run amok

Death stops our hand in mid-sentence,

There are many reasons not to write poetry.

I hope the only one we need is death.

                        August 19, 2021

Many More Reasons

And then again, as long as there are

Bees to share our sweet sorrows and joys

Flowers full, their beauty bursting like firecrackers

Animals to share our lives and love

Verdant trees grown tall and thick

Rivers gushing and seas lapping our shores

Air fresh with intoxicating hope

Minds clear enough to see horizons

And life, yours, mine, all of us,

There are many more reasons to write poetry

But all I need is one.

                        August 20, 2021

Hamlet’s Soliloquy Revisited

To vax, or not to vax,

To be, or not to be, same question,

But more inspired,

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The taunts and barbs of unverified conspiracies,

Or to take Arms against enlightened leadership,

And by opposing end them with your dying breath

Alone in some Corona ward, to sleep,

Perchance to dream of breathing, until no more,

And by a sleep, to say we end the intubations

And the thousand shocks of defibrillators

To which your flesh is subject? ‘Tis a consummation

Not to be wished for your worst enemies.

To sleep, a dreamless sleep; aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When you have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. For who would bear

The whips and scorns of those you’ve killed,

The Oppressor’s wrong, the pangs of despised Love,

The Law’s delay, the insolence and spurn

That the unworthy merit, would that you had

Your Quietus made with a bare bodkin instead of

Spreading disease among those you should have loved.

Whose conscience could bear such Fardels

Unless he believed he’d be forgiven of his sins

(Though some sins can’t be forgiven),

But the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

                                    August 20, 2021

I’m Going to Miss You

When I finally have to call it quits

Pack my bags and exit stage left

And get my one-way ticket punched

I’m going to miss you, Earth

The warm loam of your fertile soil

The dappled glens and orchards

The firm thrust of your naked mountains

The cool slake of your countless streams

The whispered breezes, all that and more

To have to turn my gaze away

Toward the unfathomable night

And rejoin the universe of dead things

Perhaps for the best, but perhaps not

Life was always a gamble, wasn’t it?

But I will surely miss you, Earth

Even should I forget you.

                        August 22, 2021

The Levant Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawk walked along the lower path

Of the Oconaluftee by the river just before

The break of dawn when the fish began to jump

And the other birds started singing their names.

Sparrowhawk whistled his secret name

Like the others, to scare his enemies

And comfort his friends. The path began to rise

Through the cool smoke of the mountain ridge.

The hunger yawned and stretched in his belly

And he wondered what would be for his breakfast.

His wings pushed big gulps of air under him

And lifted him high over the river. His eye spotted

A trout jumping over a submerged rock and

He fell like a silent arrow grabbing the fish

With his talons before it finished its dive.

Sparrowhawk rose again into the smoky sky

Thrumping the air with his strong wings

Until he reached his perch overlooking the valley.

While he tore the flesh from the fish

He heard a distant klee klee killy klee!

It seemed to come from behind the rising sun.

Sparrowhawk dropped the trout and

Aimed for the sun rising over the eastern ridge.

The sun began to rise above him

And the klee klee killy klee dropped beneath

The sun. He flew over ridge after ridge

Until the land under him flattened out

And became a sandy shoreline. The sun

Was well behind him when a vast sea spread

Underneath and his wings sang klee klee killy klee

To keep flying over wave after wave

And night spilled over the vault of sky above

Bringing the stars wheeling slowly around him

With black rivers above him and below

And nowhere to rest his weary wings

Except in Death, but then klee klee killy klee

Kept his wings thrumping and everything disappeared

Except the thrumping and the klee klee killy klee.

A point of light and then a line appeared on the far horizon

And miraculously the sun rose into the sky

Pushing away the night behind him

But as far as he could see only waves rose beneath him.

The sun climbed over and behind him and night came.

Death licked his belly till there seemed nothing left to lick.

Sun, waves, and night over and over

For one hundred and thirty-seven days and nights.

Every time the thrumping stopped, he heard the

Klee klee killy klee! But on this day Sparrowhawk

Saw the pristine shore and the low hills behind it.

Over the shoreline and the rocky hills, he flew

And he called klee klee killy klee to her

Klee klee killy klee!

And their hearts were quiet and pure.

                        August 26, 2021

How to Read a Poem

To let yourself be swayed by the slightest breeze

Like a single petal of a lone flower in a field,

To allow love’s arrow to breach your walls

And pierce your exposed heart,

To be moved by the fortunes of a small bird

Venturing out of her nest the first time,

To be able to admire the ardors of an ant

Struggling heroically for the sake of the colony,

To follow a poem wherever it may lead

To the edge of meaning and beyond,

To wonder at the poems from distant worlds

You’ll never read or know their beauty,

This is how a poem’s written

And how it begs to be read,

But you already knew that, didn’t you.

                        August 28, 2021

North Star

I don’t know why my heart chose you

For its north star, to guide me home,

Though home it never was and

Never will be. I don’t know,

But it did of its own accord.

Other stars orbit you like

Dry-winged moths around a candle,

Burning up when they venture close.

My heart is one such moth

In this pointillistic night.

                        September 3, 2021

Imagine #1

You awaken from a deep sleep.

You are aware that you’ve been sleeping

For a very long time but you don’t know

What that red button is on the window

Of the casket you seem to be in.

You press the red button and

The window opens with a swish.

You see other people standing with

Their backs to you in front of a window

Looking at something outside.

You walk over to them unsteadily

And ask someone what everyone

Is looking at. He looks at you

Without answering and points

At a small blue green disc.

You stare at it a long time

And you think it’s growing.

A fleeting memory of another

Blue green disc growing smaller

And more distant flashes

Behind your eyes. What was that?

                        September 4, 2021

A Thought

We tend to love those most

Who do us the most damage

But what of those who damage us?

What do they gain? Nothing,

But then they want nothing

Of us except our absence.

What do we gain? Nothing

Except the pillage of our souls.

                        September 8, 2021

A Soul

A soul’s existence

Can’t be argued in a court of law

Nor be proven in any philosophy

Nor verified experimentally.

It’s not omniscient or omnipotent

Or the Subject of holy books.

It can’t create a world or universe

Or man or even a tiny quark.

Perhaps it doesn’t really exist

In any physical sense, so what

If it’s composed of virtual particles

That describe some behavior of

Things we haven’t found yet.

For all these seeming disadvantages

Everyone who has a soul

Knows he has one

And can see the souls

Of other things that have them.

A soul is something that

Loves other souls.

They choose their bodies,

(Not vice-versa)

To get to where they need to go.

Do not try to feed a soul –

They take their sustenance

From beauty and truth

And will wither without those things.

Useless things, these souls –

It’s a wonder we have them.

                        September 8, 2021

Celluloid

We are all movies

From the first frame to the last

From womb to doom.

We can be rewound and fast-forwarded

By a flick of the projector.

The theater is mostly empty

But for a few viewers

Who sneaked in the back

Munching their own popcorn

Until the credits roll on

And the lights wake us up.

The marquee flickers “de Sade”

Missing some letters.

In the projection room

There are billions of reels

Piled helter-skelter

From floor to ceiling.

And here is the sound of the celluloid tail

Licking the dust floating in the light

At the end of the reel.

                                    September 11, 2021

A Nine-Eleven Haiku

There was nothing in

His song that reminded us.

Still, our eyes were wet.

                        September 11, 2021

Day of Atonement

As we begin this

Day of Atonement,

Yom Kippur,

It occurs to me that

There are some things

That cannot be forgiven,

That there are cheeks

That cannot be turned away.

There is no forgiveness

That can absolve an evil

As though it never were.

Every stone we throw into a pond

Ripples to the shore and back

Forever and ever.

Everything we do or don’t do

Engenders consequences

Upon consequences

Upon consequences.

                        September 15, 2021

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur in the Land of Promises

A shofar sounds in the distance

Everything stops for a moment

And a world holds its breath

Then lets it out slowly

Rustling the leaves of trees.

Parents check whether the cars

Have finally stopped coming and going

And it is safe for their preciously helmeted children

To ride their wobbly bicycles

In the middle of the streets.

Don’t go too far and Where will you be

And Watch out for cars,

The young fathers worry,

While the young children

Assure them But my friends will be with me

I don’t know where we’ll be

It’s Yom Kippur and there are no cars,

And Stop being such a worrier.

Fathers let go of their children

With a silent prayer to a God they don’t believe in

To please look after my children

Let them return safe and sound

And don’t punish them

For my disbelief in You

Because they believe in You

Even if I don’t,

And so, the God of Vital Statistics

Flips a coin and tosses the dice

In a dark casino at the end

Of the universe.

                        September 16, 2021

If God Is Infinite

If God is infinite

And we are finite

Then how are we to have

Any kind of meaningful relationship

With Him?

We can’t count up to Him

And He can’t count down to us.

So maybe we should stop

Saying He is infinite

And start using some other word

Like Very Big or Many

To describe Him.

But then no matter how Very Big

He is, there’s probably Something Bigger

Or Many More than Him.

It’s so very confusing

But we know what we mean,

Or do we?

                        September 20, 2021

We’ll Have a Cup of Coffee

In the beginning

There was Nothing.

Then there was Everything.

Some called it the Big Bang

But I doubt that

Because there was no air

For the Bang to reach our ears

And no ears to hear it.

They say the echoes of the gravity waves

From the Big Bang are still

Bouncing around the Universe

If we can build a sensitive enough ear to hear it.

Eventually Everything will fizzle out

And there will be Nothing again.

But I imagine if there was Everything once,

There will be Everything again

And again, over and over.

Then there are those who say that

Everything always was

And always will be.

Anyway, I’ll be back

And so will you.

It’s inevitable.

Even if we forget we knew each other

We will run into each other

Have a cup of coffee together

And fall in love again.

Isn’t that a warming thought

For the long cold journey?

                        September 22, 2021

Poems for Linda

Unknown poets love being unknown

Poets love being unknown poets

Love being unknown poets love

Being unknown poets love being.

Wasted time loves being wasted

Time loves being wasted time

Loves being wasted time loves

Being wasted time loves being.

Empty space hates being empty

Space hates being empty space

Hates being empty space hates

Being empty space hates being.

Frightened butterflies fear being frightened

Butterflies fear being frightened butterflies

Fear being frightened butterflies’ fear

Being frightened butterflies fear being.

                                    September 24, 2021

Before It’s Too Late

Follow the butterflies

And if you can’t

Follow the butterflies

Then follow the birds

And if you can’t

Follow the birds

Then follow the sun, moon, and stars.

You say you can’t follow these things?

Why do you think you have wings?

You say you don’t have wings?

Then find someone to love

Before it’s too late,

Before it’s too late.

                        September 25, 2021

Running Naked

Sometimes

I try to imagine

What it’s like not to be

Because being dead

Is a contradiction in terms.

Being is incompatible with dead

You can’t experience being dead

Like you experience being alive

Being in love

Or being alone

Or being deprived of all stimuli

Because when they take away all stimuli

You’re still left with a sense of time

But when you’re dead

There is no you to experience

No subject left in the body

For any verb.

I suppose that not being

Is like some lunatic

Taking off all his clothes

And running naked through the forest.

                                    September 28, 2021

This Old Bag of Bones

This old bag of bones

Is going to the garbage can

Nobody’s gonna mourn

Except maybe those cats

If I put the lid on too tight.

This old bag of bones

Is all that’s left after

Enjoying what life’s offered

Sitting ‘round the table

Set for all of us.

This old bag of bones

Ain’t goin’ anywhere

Except that deep dark hole

Ain’t gonna fly to infinity

Or mosey on down to eternity.

‘Cause my soul’s gotta travel light

O so light! Gimme more light,

Goin’ to that light.

                        October 1, 2021

Things that Are Weird

God bless the things that are weird

That are unusual or unknown

That there’s no precedent for

That you didn’t learn in school

That you won’t find in the Bible

That your friends don’t agree with

That don’t fit any template

That there’s no common word for

That are not like you or me

Or anyone else you know,

Because these are the things

That define our humanity

And differentiate us from

Tumbleweeds.

                        October 7, 2021

Interpretations of Silence

A lot of things have been said about silence

But in the end, the only thing that can be said

Is nothing. In the beginning,

She saw me before I saw her,

But what did it matter?

That was before I was thrall to her witchery.

I saw her, even if no one else did.

She fed me poetry on bits of newspaper

And I thought it was her heart.

When I wrapped my own heart in newspaper

Like some hooked fish and chips

Her silence sent me to the dictionary

Of joys and sorrows but

All the pages were blank. Like Circe’s pigs,

I drank my blood, thinking it was her poetry.

When I awoke, years and lives later,

A different silence issued forth,

A deathly silence. Had she cared

Or had she not? In the end,

There is no closure,

There is no door,

No one asked

And no one asking.

                        October 8, 2021

Gödel’s Unfinished Cacophony, Opus 101

Allegro ma non troppo

G-d listens to the one who praises Him

To G-d belongs all praise

G-d is Great


I will exalt You, O Lord,

for You lifted me out of the depths

and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

O Lord my G-d, I called to You for help

and You healed me. O Lord,

You brought me up from the grave;

You spared me from going down into the pit.

Sing to the Lord, you saints of His;

praise His holy name.

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name;

Thy kingdom come;

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread;

and forgive us our trespasses

as we forgive those who trespass against us;

and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary, full of grace.

Molto vivace

What time is it?

What day?

O G-d, I’m late, I’m late!

No time, no time!

Forgot the water heater again!

O G-d it’s cold, cold, cold!

Just a cuppa before I go

Damn car won’t start!

Call a cab,

Where’s my phone?

O G-d, look at that traffic!

I’ll never make it on time!

Adagio molto e cantabile

Checking email,

Mostly spam,

G-d damn,

What do they want from me now?

What was that dream I had last night?

What was that dream?

Zzzzzz

No, I wasn’t sleeping,

No, I wasn’t!

Time to leave,

Time to go.

O G-d, look at that traffic!

Finale (duet)

Voice #1: Hello, son …

Voice #2: Who is this?

Voice #1: It’s me, can’t you hear?

Voice #2: What’s that you said? I can’t hear you!

Voice #1: What did you say? I can’t hear you!

Voice #2: Are you on speaker? Are you in the car?

Voice #1: Where are you? What?

Voice #2: Let’s email! The kids are crying!

Voice #1: What did you say? I can’t hear you!

Voice #2: Are you on speaker? Are you in the car?

                                    October 10, 2021

Other Eyes

To see through other eyes

Your eyes for instance

Not to see myself

Through your eyes

The gift of gods

But to see from your window

High and lonely

Before you turn away

Turn off the lights

Look in on the child

Undress in the darkness

Lay down to dream

Your dreams

Your mind floating away

On their gentle waves,

These are what I wonder

When I think of you

Each night

A gift no gods grant

Any man.

                        October 13, 2021

Flowers and Skies

The flowers and the untrod fields in our land

Are as lovely and mysterious as our women,

Our stories are as tall and incredible

As our sons and grandsons,

Our lakes and creeks are as delicious

As our smorgasbord of languages and beliefs,

But our cloudy skies are as fraught with portents

As our enemies.

                                            October 16, 2021

Tell Him I Like Surprises

If you see him coming from afar

Scarcely above the watery horizon

Yet unable to tell the hoisted flag

Then I’ll tell you and you tell him

He doesn’t need to call ahead

I don’t need to know the details

For I like surprises, especially his,

Death’s, that is.

October 20, 2021

Wampum

What is love? They asked him.

Love is what makes you feel alive,

The only thing that lets you know

You’re not dead yet.

And what is life? They asked.

Life is that magic thing that happens

When dead things get up

And begin to dance

And what is dance? They asked.

When we were young and full of life

We used to sing the memories

Of our parents and grandparents

And dance the old ones’ stories.

Nobody knows how to sing or dance anymore.

The young ones just laugh

At dancing and singing

And sit around with dead eyes.

The askers disappeared in the smoke of his pipe

Which he tapped against the wall

Till the burnt tobacco fell out.

                                  October 27, 2021

A Billiard Table of a Universe

I wonder who would win a tug of war

Between God and Infinity.

I mean Infinity could bring His bigger brother, Aleph One,

Who could bring His bigger brother, Aleph Two,

And so forth and so on.

From my point of view, I don’t care

Who is stronger or Who created what;

I just care Who is trying His damnedest

To do the right thing, which is pretty difficult

In this billiard table of a universe.

These are my thoughts as I sit at the gate

Waiting to board the roaring wings

To America.

Then I wonder what you are thinking,

Sitting at your desk, books and pages spread out,

Looking out your window to the sunlit courtyard

And the bougainvillea.

                                            November 5, 2021