The Dangers of Love

a sketch of a nude woman, by Mike Stone

The Dangers of Love

Copyright © 2022 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

Contents…………………………………………………………………………………. 3

Foreword……………………………………………………………………………….. 7

Poems……………………………………………………………………………………. 8

The Dangers of Love……………………………………………………………….. 9

A Thought…………………………………………………………………………… 10

A Moment of Eternity……………………………………………………………. 11

Awakening………………………………………………………………………….. 12

A Forest Fire………………………………………………………………………… 13

Love’s Measure……………………………………………………………………. 14

Like Fire Love Was Stolen……………………………………………………….. 15

A Terse Note……………………………………………………………………….. 16

Back to Eden……………………………………………………………………….. 17

Eden’s Womb………………………………………………………………………. 18

Love’s Fool………………………………………………………………………….. 19

A Fractured Love………………………………………………………………….. 20

Shards of Love……………………………………………………………………… 21

Choices………………………………………………………………………………. 22

Why Do We Trust or Care?……………………………………………………… 24

Valentine’s Day……………………………………………………………………. 26

The Days before and after Valentine’s Day…………………………………. 28

A Doozy……………………………………………………………………………… 29

Love’s Symmetry………………………………………………………………….. 30

Advice to a Beloved………………………………………………………………. 32

The Princess’s Cloak………………………………………………………………. 33

In Between………………………………………………………………………….. 35

To See Clearly………………………………………………………………………. 35

Felled by Beauty…………………………………………………………………… 36

Six Million Stories…………………………………………………………………. 37

Whittling Away…………………………………………………………………….. 37

A Blessing and a Curse…………………………………………………………… 38

What Is Reality?……………………………………………………………………. 39

Blond Hair in a Ponytail………………………………………………………….. 40

Belief…………………………………………………………………………………. 41

Approach Avoidance……………………………………………………………… 42

The Evolution of Love……………………………………………………………. 43

Abel’s Shadow……………………………………………………………………… 44

A Whisp of Flame…………………………………………………………………. 45

What Is It about Love?…………………………………………………………… 46

Such a Thing as Love……………………………………………………………… 47

Does Love Make Me Good?…………………………………………………….. 48

Grains of Good and Evil………………………………………………………….. 49

Imagine………………………………………………………………………………. 50

Once upon a Space and Time………………………………………………….. 52

Inspiration…………………………………………………………………………… 53

Lies……………………………………………………………………………………. 55

Words………………………………………………………………………………… 56

Love…………………………………………………………………………………… 58

On Arrows…………………………………………………………………………… 58

When I Left Home………………………………………………………………… 59

Call Me Scheherazade……………………………………………………………. 60

Socratic Knowledge………………………………………………………………. 61

Fanfare for an Uncommon Man……………………………………………….. 62

Daskalos and Aphrodite…………………………………………………………. 63

What the Hell Are Arms for?…………………………………………………… 65

Of Good and Evil…………………………………………………………………… 66

Nothing Is Sustainable…………………………………………………………… 69

A Wise Child………………………………………………………………………… 70

The Rivers of Entropy…………………………………………………………….. 71

Lost in Time…………………………………………………………………………. 72

Tel Dan………………………………………………………………………………. 74

The Banality of Evil……………………………………………………………….. 75

Merom Golan………………………………………………………………………. 76

Rosh Pina……………………………………………………………………………. 78

The Half-Life of a Poem………………………………………………………….. 80

Imaginary Numbers………………………………………………………………. 81

Safed…………………………………………………………………………………. 83

A Casting of Bones………………………………………………………………… 85

Love’s Proof………………………………………………………………………… 86

Out of Sequence…………………………………………………………………… 86

In Praise of Craziness…………………………………………………………….. 87

Sunrise over Hades……………………………………………………………….. 88

Just Three Things………………………………………………………………….. 89

Dream of Peace……………………………………………………………………. 90

The Cut-out…………………………………………………………………………. 91

All You Need……………………………………………………………………….. 92

Mount Meron……………………………………………………………………… 93

Where the Trees and Rivers Laugh……………………………………………. 95

What If Words……………………………………………………………………… 96

Questions by the Sea…………………………………………………………….. 97

Memories…………………………………………………………………………… 98

Foreword

This book of poetry is dedicated to all those gentle souls who have been wounded by love and survived.

There is no promise of hope that everything will work out in the end, no words of succor or justification that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, and no heroic poem such as Homer might have sung before a prescient chorus.

There is only a haphazard chronicling of the chimerical forms love has taken and the wounds it has inflicted on us again and again. The reader may recognize the face of a loved one in one of love’s innumerable forms or wince at a familiar pain from one of the wounds inflicted on him or her by love. Should love be put on trial and possibly punished for its crimes against humanity? No, of course not. Should we cast love out of our midst, exile it, or excommunicate it? Certainly not. Like our child, it has the same blood as we have. No, more than like a child, love is our inner soul. It is our nature to suffer love’s wounds. It is what defines our humanity.  Love’s wounds teach us not to wound others unnecessarily.

Poems

 

The Dangers of Love

Love,

What does it do to us?

What doesn’t it do to us?

It comes when it’s uninvited

And it doesn’t come when invited.

Sometimes it comes once,

Sometimes it comes more than once,

And sometimes it doesn’t come at all.

When love does come through the door,

Rationality leaves through the window.

Love makes of life a brilliant bouquet of flowers

And presents them to Age and Death.

Blessed are those who love and survive,

Cursed are those who do not.

                        January 27, 2022

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 Moment of Eternity

Love makes a moment seem an eternity

But makes one wait an eternity for that moment.

Some love only what is seen in the mirror,

Some love only what is seen through a window,

Some love only what is seen on the flesh,

And some love what is seen beneath the flesh.

Some love too little,

Some love too much,

And some love just right.

Some love Love

More than what is loved.

Love steals away in the night,

Love launches a thousand ships,

Love pillages whole cities,

Nothing and no one are safe from love.

                        January 30, 2022

Awakening

Suddenly you are awake

Perhaps not suddenly

But little by little

Things begin to appear

Or do they appear to begin?

Fluid sloshes gently

Against a wall

Soft and warm to touch

Vibrations of distant sounds

Feeling, hearing

Beating pulse

What are these things?

What should be asked?

How can it be known?

What is asking

And what is knowing?

Is this a world

Or is it death?

                        February 2, 2022

A Forest Fire

Is monogamy moral?

I just want to do the right thing Lord,

Even if You don’t exist and

There’s no Heaven or Hell

To goad us on to the right path.

Of course, it’s moral to give your love

To one, but only one?

Is it moral to withhold your love

From another who requests it?

Is love a finite thing

That can only be divided by two

Or can it be divided infinitely?

Is it like an apple pie

Or is it like a forest fire?

                        February 3, 2022

Love’s Measure

There are those who would try to measure love

As though it were a domesticated thing

Or something familiar like a heavily trod path.

They would count your tears as they fall

Into their measuring cups, recording them

For comparison against another time you cried

To tell you whom you loved more

Or which loss was the greater tragedy for you

As though there were standards

For grief or passion. Know this, glum tear-counter,

Love looms larger than any one of us

And cannot be calculated on abacus or computer

Nor yardstick or scale.

                        February 4, 2022

Like Fire Love Was Stolen

Like fire,

Love was stolen from the gods

And bequeathed to men

Who consumed it along with

The poison at its center

That paralyzes and diminishes

Body and soul, and leads us

To the valley of the shadow.

We think love gives us wings

But we are crashed on the rocks

Like Icarus with his melted wings

For the gods remember everything

And forgive nothing.

                        February 5, 2022

A Terse Note

Sometimes love grows

Too big for one heart

And it hurts so bad

You just can’t bear it

One more moment

So you write a terse note

And pick up this thing

That will make it stop

And you feel its cold weight

In your raised hand.

                        February 6, 2022

Back to Eden

There was a time you thought

That you were loved utterly,

Like the moon loves the earth

Without the earth having to do

Anything but be there and

Where else would it be but there?

But little by little even the moon

Moves away until it is gone

From the night sky and the dawn

Creeps over the mountains

Carrying the new day on its back.

You find yourself grown older

And you look for that first love

To submit yourself within

The wrap of her arms

As though you could find your way back

To some Eden that you know never was.

                                    February 8, 2022

Eden’s Womb

Yet perhaps there was a return to Eden

When my father was in his final throes

My sister held him against her breast

To confuse his ungentle going into the night

And so soften its terrible blow

Until his fearful pain was gone.

So anyone would want to go

Back the way he came

Through Eden’s womb.

                                    February 8, 2022

Love’s Fool

Sitting alone smiling

When everyone else

Is dancing or talking,

Never asking

Only answering,

Never leading

Only following.

If you look really hard

You can see the smile tremble,

If you listen carefully

You can hear the uncertainty,

If you touch his arm or leg

You can feel his being contract.

These are the scars of past loves

The wounds from too much care

And too much trust.

Love wounds you,

Changes its form,

And wounds you again.

Who wouldn’t be Love’s fool?

                        February 9, 2022

A Fractured Love

And then there is a fractured love,

A love that fell from great heights

Crashing on rocky shoals,

Cracks filled with imperfect gilding

And missing fragments.

You see, it was always

Love itself was ever wounded

And never human.

After all, what man or woman

Could by love be wounded,

Who are of godly love incapable,

To be wounded yet never die?

                                    February 10, 2022

Shards of Love

When there is no big love

On the distant horizon

We collect whatever shards of love

We can find in an abandoned field,

A like or heart here

An email there

A coworker’s unintended compliment

The accidental brushing touch of a stranger

On a crowded train,

We try to assemble them

In a semblance approximating love

But not quite reaching critical mass

Or whatever it was

The soul wished of love.

                        February 11, 2022

Choices

In the beginning

(Nobody knows how long ago)

There was nothing

(But the possibility of everything)

And then

(Nobody knows exactly when)

Something happened

(Nobody knows what to call it)

And a bunch of things appeared

(Which we gave funny names to)

Which behaved fairly predictably

(Like billiard balls)

But then

(Nobody knows when)

Those billiard balls bumped into each other

Until they became a living thing

That could do one thing or another

All by itself

And the universe

(That’s what some called it)

Split in two

(One for the one thing

And one for the other)

And then a bunch more billiard balls

Bumped into each other

Until they became a conscious thing

And then a universe crumbled into

Separate universes for each choice

The conscious things faced

And everyone had his own universe

With moons and planets

Stars and galaxies

And everybody was very lonely

Even though they were just

A bunch of billiard balls.

                        February 12, 2022

Why Do We Trust or Care?

Why do we love at all?

I mean, how does it benefit our survival

In evolutionary terms

As a species?

Not just us –

Mammals, birds,

Octopus for heaven’s sake,

God knows how far down

Or sideways love goes

In our great chain of being?

Why do we trust?

Why do we care?

Why do we elevate the Other

And lower ourselves?

Don’t tell me it’s for the sex.

To trust is to lower your guard

To expose your heart

To an enemy’s dagger.

To care is to risk your life

To save another’s.

To elevate another above yourself

Is to value someone’s life

More than your own.

I have no answer to the question why,

Only to say there must be an answer

Which is known by being

If not by thinking.

                        February 13, 2022

Valentine’s Day

A young girl carries a bunch of roses

Between the small round tables

Of a sidewalk café offering a single rose

To patrons who continue talking

Between bites and sips

As though she were invisible

And anyway of little consequence.

A waiter takes the orders

Of the people at a table

Under a wide parasol

Near the street.

A man and a woman

Sit across from each other

With nothing to say

Each looking at the pedestrians

Walking quickly by.

A man sitting at a table nearby

Drinks the last of his coffee

And thinks they must be married.

                        February 14, 2022

The Days before and after Valentine’s Day

Not the day sanctified by greeting card companies

Florists, restaurants, or hoteliers

But the unsanctified days consecrated by

Holding your hand while we await

The doctor’s diagnosis

Or that time you helped me to the car

After my operation

Or all those nights we worried about the kids

And after they left home, about our dogs

Or those times we watched TV or saw a movie

And felt the same about the ending

Or those nights before I undressed to go to bed

I just stood there looking at you sleep

Thinking just how beautiful you are.

If they could put all this in a Valentine’s Day card

I’d buy you one every day

Till kingdom come.

                                    February 15, 2022

A Doozy

There’s no accounting for love.

You can’t plan for love

And you can’t plan around it.

You can’t take out an insurance policy

For or against love.

You just have to take your chances.

You might play hide-and-seek with it

But you might never find love

Even if you give up and cry

Ally ally in free.

Love won’t listen to your excuses –

You’re eating supper now,

It’s past your bedtime,

You have to go to work,

Or you’re already married.

Love will just sit on your doorstep.

If you do go out to play with love,

Watch out for that first step though –

It’s a doozy.

                        February 16, 2022

Love’s Symmetry

When we think of love

We imagine its symmetry,

That the lover and beloved

Love each other equally,

We love equations so.

But truth be told

More often than not

The lover loves the beloved

More than the beloved loves the lover.

Why is it that the lover

Doesn’t demand to be loved in return?

Because he is too paralyzed

To demand anything of his beloved.

So love weakens the lover

In the eyes of the beloved.

And how does the beloved

Feel about the lover?

That he is like a weight

She must lug around behind her.

Better the lover honor himself

Before loving his beloved.

                        February 17, 2022

Advice to a Beloved

Don’t.

Don’t hurt, just because you can.

True, you have no feelings for him.

Nothing warm, anyway.

Perhaps you love someone else.

If not, then maybe you will sometime.

Maybe you will find yourself

In the same position as your lover.

You know, the one who loves you,

The one for whom you have no feelings.

Don’t worry, empathy is not love.

It’s just a way to keep your head

Above the quicksand of evil.

                        February 18, 2022

The Princess’s Cloak

Once,

Before there was such a thing as time,

When nobody thought to have watches

To tell them what to do

And when to do it,

There was a young princess

Who was very beautiful

But also, very sad.

The king and queen were distraught

Because their lovely daughter

Seemed so wan and wistful,

And they decreed throughout the land

That whoever cheereth the princess up

Will be awarded his weight in gold,

But whoever succeedeth not

Will be drawn and quartered.

The only one to offer to cure the princess’s mood

Was a little old man of dubious means

Who came without roots or potions.

He was admitted into the princess’s rooms

By a scimitar-bearing eunuch.

The princess saw the little old man

And he saw the beautiful young princess,

Who was dressed in petticoats upon petticoats

And a vest buttoned all the way up to her chin.

Have you ever been in love, the old man asked,

Nay, the princess answered then, what is love?

It’s this invisible cloak that caresses you

All over your body, that warms you

And makes you tingle all over, he said.

Please, sir, she pleaded, do you have this cloak?

Yes, I brought it with me, he said.

First remove all your old clothes, your highness.

The princess called for her maid-in-waiting,

Who helped her remove the royal petticoats and vest

Without further ado and the princess

Stood naked as the day she was born.

The little old man climbed onto a stool

And draped the princess with the cloak of love.

The young princess was radiant in her cloak.

She took to riding around town on a white horse

And everyone who saw her fell prostrate before her.

The little old man was awarded sixty-eight kilos of gold

Which allowed him to buy a shop

And sell love cloaks to one and all.

Unfortunately, when time kicked in

And clocks began ticking,

The old man’s business went bankrupt.

                        February 19, 2022

In Between

We live in between things

in between the notes

the seconds

the words

the silences

the glances

the touches

and the loves.

We try to bridge them

but no bridge is long enough.

            February 20, 2022

To See Clearly

To see clearly would require

a transparency

of our sense organs

that they do not possess.

Only ghosts see clearly.

     February 22, 2022

Felled by Beauty

To be felled

by beauty and longing

is to know

that you have

a soul.

February 23, 2022

Six Million Stories

Six million stories,

each one with a different beginning,

all with the same ending,

six million stories

we will never hear or read.

February 24, 2022

Whittling Away

We can whittle away our ignorance

though it is infinite

and we can approximate the truth

though tomorrow we may have to erase it and start over

yet the evil we can cause

is inestimable.

February 25, 2022

A Blessing and a Curse

As we dance across a page

Of a universal book

Our footsteps are printed indelibly

And our shadows stain the page

With everything we do or don’t do.

We can’t escape by erasure or

Cutting ourselves out of the page.

We have been inscribed in the Book of Life

Since the beginning of eternity

Which is not only a blessing

But also a curse.

                        February 25, 2022

What Is Reality?

What is reality anyway?

Is it what I see on a small screen

Sitting on my couch far away

From a cameraman panning

The ruins of a city that used to be

Someone’s neighborhood

That could be safely traversed

In five-minute chunks

Between commercials?

Is it the young girl’s or

The old man’s trembling lip

Speaking a language

I don’t understand?

Is it something objective I could see

From high in the sky above everyone

Far above the clash and clangs

The shrieks and cries?

Or is it something I must feel

The flesh, the lust and fear

The stink of my own birth

The stench of my own death?

                        February 25, 2022

Blond Hair in a Ponytail

A young woman with blond hair

Tied in a ponytail

Wearing jeans and a sweater

Hums a song to herself

While she brushes off shards

Of shattered glass from what was

Once a window overlooking

The destruction across the street.

The shards fall inward onto the floor.

Tanks roll by in the street below

Clinking like a xylophone out of tune.

She notices a sniper take up position

Across the way. He checks his crosshairs.

As I sit at the kitchen table in front of a screen

On the other side of the world

Suddenly it’s very important to me

To hear the words she is humming

Even though I don’t understand them.

                        February 27, 2019

Belief

Belief is best attained

By closing one’s eyes

And plugging one’s ears

Because it ignores what one sees

What one hears

(And what has been validated).

Belief increases another’s advantage

But not one’s own.

The wise one will believe

Only what he must

And only if it can’t be proven

One way or another;

Such is trust for the wise one

And such is love for the rest of us.

A wise one will not choose to believe

For beauty’s sake or some aesthetic

But only if his body tells him

It must be believed

Despite what he thinks he knows.

                        February 28, 2022

Approach Avoidance

Somewhere

            Sometime

There is a universe in which

You say yes

Instead of no

My hand cups your cheek

            And your hand covers my hand

            Instead of pulling my hand away

And our bodies lie against each other’s

Instead of apart from one another.

            Such is the hopelessness of hope

            In the vastness of the multiverse

With no way forward

And no way back.

                        March 1, 2022

The Evolution of Love

I wonder whether love has evolved

Since Venus of Willendo,

The four-inch clay goddess

(Or maybe just a paleolithic playgirl

For cavemen out on a hunt

Far from the cave).

I mean the concept of love,

Has it really changed?

We certainly love our fictions,

So much so that when

We finally meet another

Of the opposite persuasion,

We turn them into favored fictions

So that we may love them

And not the flesh and bone other

We no more could see

Than something of another dimension.

Ever since we invented God,

We’ve preferred illusion

Over reality,

Whatever that might be.

                        March 2, 2022

Abel’s Shadow

Love can change to its opposite quicker

Than you can think of Jack Robinson

As though hatred were born alongside love,

Like a dark Cain, growing in Abel’s shadow.

Did you really think you could possess beauty

Or anything else that emerges from the soul,

Hoard it like you would your fool’s gold?

Another’s beauty will never be yours to possess

It will recoil from you, changing possession

To a thing of ugliness before your eyes.

If you thought to destroy beauty

So that no one else might look on it,

All that you’ve destroyed is your soul.

Would that you were never born.

                                    March 4, 2022

A Whisp of Flame

It has been said that magic is either

Science witnessed the first time

Or chicanery, but love at first sight

Is also magic or so it seems,

Especially when it’s the first love

With nothing to prepare you for

The rushing torrent of feelings

Flooding your arteries. Try

As you may to keep your footing

You are carried away, arms flailing

Helplessly, unable to breathe.

What you hold against your breast

Is a whisp of shimmering flame,

A fire stolen from the Gods.

                        March 5, 2022

What Is It about Love?

What is it about love

That makes it the most interesting

Subject in the world,

More so even than Life or Death,

More so than our history or our future,

More so, if we are honest with ourselves,

Than our philosophies and religions?

Is it that a life without love

Is a life unlived?

Is it that we would sacrifice

Our history and our future

On love’s altar?

Is it that abstract philosophies and religions

Pale against the countenance of love?

Or is it that all these things have answers

Except for love?

                                    March 7, 2022

Such a Thing as Love

Does love make me good?

Am I good if I love?

Can I love someone who is not good?

Can an evil person love?

Can a good person do evil?

Does doing evil make me an evil person?

How much evil can one do before he becomes evil?

How much good can one do before she becomes good?

How much should I love someone or something?

Is it possible to love too much?

Does love have boundaries?

If so, what are they?

Is it possible to do evil for the sake of love?

Is there really such a thing as love

That exists forever everywhere

Even if I don’t believe in it

Or does it only exist between us

When we are in it

For a moment somewhere?

                        March 9, 2022

Does Love Make Me Good?

Early Montagmorgen

I put on my uniform and jackboots

And walked out onto our balcony

To survey the camp, which boasted

Prominent artists, musicians, and intellectuals.

After the Red Cross came to see

How well my guests were treated,

Which was filmed for the world to see,

We sent them all to the ovens.

Work was hard all week,

What with shootings and hangings,

It was so distasteful,

But I wasn’t one to shirk my duties.

Every Sontag, my beloved Anna and I

Went to kirche with our two beautiful kinder

And afterward, we would have a pleasant lunch.

                                    March 11, 2022

Grains of Good and Evil

There are two beaches with an ocean between them:

On one beach the sands are evil

And evil are those who lie down there;

On the other beach, the sands are good

And good are those who lie down there.

Were I to bring from the good beach

Heaps of sand to the evil beach,

How many grains of good sand would it take

To cover the bodies of evil?

And were I to bring from the evil beach

Heaps of sand to the good beach,

How many grains of evil sand would it take

To cover the bodies of good?

                        March 15, 2022

Imagine

Imagine a city or town like yours

In which you get up in the morning

Extricating yourself from your warm blankets

Slip on your jeans and slippers

And wake the kids to get ready

For kindergarten or nursery.

Imagine you sit down to breakfast

Eggs or cereal, maybe pancakes

Make sure they brush their teeth

Pile them into their car seats

Turn the key in the ignition

Check the gas tank, the mirror

Look both ways and pull out carefully

Depositing each one safely

With the other children and teachers.

Imagine you go to work

You get a good day’s work in

Go home, kiss the wife and kids,

Put them to bed, unwind with the wife

Have a delicious supper

Share a couple glasses of wine

And climb into bed together

Under the blankets

And the normal worries of the day

Until you sink into pleasant dreams.

Now imagine a city or town in Ukraine

It doesn’t matter which

It could be Kyiv, Odessa, Kharkiv, Lviv,

Or anywhere else in that God-forsaken country

Skies blackened with missiles, shells

Fighter jets, helicopters, tanks and artillery

With no place to hide, no food or water,

No pharmacies or hospitals left standing

Fathers and grandfathers unable or unwilling

To leave their country to fall into the hands

Of a would-be Stalin whose dreams

Are the nightmares of everyone else.

                        March 17, 2022

Once upon a Space and Time

Once upon a time

You could make a hundred wishes

But only one would be granted

And you couldn’t know which one.

Once you could grant anybody’s wishes but your own

And everybody was happy but you.

There was a time and space when

You could be created by a God

Who listened to your prayers

And sent you to Heaven if you were good.

A long, long time ago

You didn’t have to learn

More than you were born knowing

In order to survive.

Once upon a space and time

In another world and universe

The consequences of your actions

Were immediate and you didn’t have

To wait so long to be punished

Or rewarded.

                        March 20, 2022

Inspiration

What is inspiration, they asked.

Its origin gives no hint except

To those who believe in God,

As God was said to have breathed life

Into a golem that was man from mud

And thus, he came alive, but after

God’s breath, nothing else inspired him.

Then came woman whose beauty

Inspired man to turn away from

The ugliness of cruelty and violence

And breathe life into everything around him.

Soon, silence and grunts were not enough

To describe the souls of people,

Animals, trees, clouds, and stars

And people breathed life into words

So that their descriptions could sing

And dance and leap high into the air.

Then words breathed life into

All manner of things we think about,

Dreams and memories,

Things existing and things that don’t

But might, if only we would let them.

And what is this breath of life, they asked.

I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It isn’t

Something you pass by day after day,

Or something you’d expect to happen

Or something you know or opine

Or something you are sure of.

It’s not something easy or

Something you can sweat out.

It has no rhyme or reason.

You probably wouldn’t recognize it

Unless you could see and hear things

Or feel things other people couldn’t.

When it comes, if it comes,

It often comes disguised as something else,

As something common, and each time

It dons another mask. And when it comes,

It comes up behind you and blinds your eyes

With its gentle hands and, when you’ll turn around,

It will be gone, leaving you alone

To decrypt its warmth and fragrance.

Yes, inspiration is a form of love

You feel for a thing itself.

                                    March 24, 2022

Lies

Lies, all lies.

After you have removed all the people

Around you who make you feel safe,

After you remove all your clothes

And your nakedness is all you see,

All that is left are the lies you tell yourself

About how young or beautiful you are,

What you know or what you believe,

How good you are, how good you’ve been,

How true you are, how unafraid.

Call them what they are, lies, all lies,

And you will know the truth.

Say I am afraid, I am untrue,

I have done evil,

I don’t believe, I know nothing,

I am neither young nor beautiful.

Dress yourself again, what doesn’t matter,

Walk back out into the crowd,

Through the people reaching for you,

And keep walking into the night.

                        March 26, 2022

Words

It has been said of words

That they cast the long arc

Of human experience,

That without them

We would dwell in trees

Hooting from the wild grasses,

But words are not without

Their sundry evils.

Before we had words for things

There were only things,

Things that could only be themselves

And never anything else.

You learned to deal with them

Or you didn’t.

Then we had words for things

And sometimes words instead of things.

Words became lies that made us think

A thing was something when

It was really something else

Or nothing at all.

Before words, we lived our lives

As though we’d live forever

Because death wasn’t a thing

Anyone had ever experienced.

Then we had words like “death”

We filled with frightful knowledge,

With heaven, hell, and non-existence,

Although we really had no idea

What it was or how it felt.

O, how we loved our words

Feared them, weaponized them,

Went to war over them,

Paid for them, earned money from them,

And ruled over others with them.

Now, it seems too late

To back away from using words

For our thoughts, memories,

And imaginings,

To return to our once and future

Universal language of silent action,

When poetry becomes people,

Birds, rivers, and sky.

                        March 31, 2022

Love

Love must always be.

If not received,

It will be invented.

See how a child’s arms

Will hug himself

Even

On a summer’s day.

More than air

That must be breathed,

More than blood

That ever flows,

Love must always be.

            April 1, 2022

On Arrows

(inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children”)

Though we would keep them in our quivers

Our arrows are fashioned for flying

Toward other hearts than our own.

                        April 2, 2022

When I Left Home

When I left home for the first time

It was to build a new home

With my young wife.

We built it with our fears and hopes

And not much else, but it was ours

And no one else’s.

The next time we left home

We left my shores behind

To build a new country

And be built by it.

Our children sprang forth

Like sown seeds in this fertile desert,

But now it is our children

Who are leaving home and country

And us behind.

Like a living thing,

Love leaves love behind,

Erasing its tracks

As it forges forward.

                        April 2, 2022

Call Me Scheherazade

Call me Scheherazade.

Like my namesake,

I tell stories to save my life

But no one reads them.

I write books that no one reads.

I have no sultan to stay my death

As long as I can entertain him

With yet another made-up story.

Here death comes, not from a hangman’s noose,

But from attrition.

No pennies for a fresh-made poem.

Here, time is money, and nobody wants

To spend the time to parse a poem

Or to stick with a story.

Of course, the published mavens would have us

Write what everyone would rather read

No matter how many times it’s been written,

Instead of writing what one would like to read

But hasn’t been written by anyone else,

Because it’s not safe to think thoughts

That haven’t been thought by everyone.

                                    April 6, 2022

Socratic Knowledge

Socrates was right about one thing:

There is only one truth we can know

And that’s that we can never know the truth

Because we’d have to live forever

To verify it wasn’t superseded

By a truer truth or outright falsified.

We are like the mayfly that thinks

There’s no night but only day

Or like the rose that thinks

There’s no spring after winter.

We can only aspire to the

Pragmatism of science

Which theorizes, tests, and verifies

Its temporary facts that only last

Until they can be falsified.

A little modesty behoves us

To be like Socrates

Who said he knew nothing

Rather than a snake-oil salesman

Who has a cure for everything.

                        April 7, 2022

Fanfare for an Uncommon Man

You, who knew the names

Of every flower and every tree,

Who knew every animal,

Every body of water,

Every kind of weather,

Who understood every culture,

Painting, music, dance, and food,

Who wrote about all that was

And all that might have been,

Who paid attention to everything,

You, who took your language to the grave,

You, my lifelong friend until your death,

How shall I praise you with my wan words,

How shall I write your fanfare?

                                    April 8, 2022

Daskalos and Aphrodite

One day in the ancient mists of forever

Daskalos asked the goddess Aphrodite

What lessons could be learned from love

Since Aphrodite was the goddess of love

And Daskalos, the god of education. He said,

I’ve seen humans and gods more intoxicated

On love than on grapes crushed by Dionysus,

I’ve seen others impervious to love,

Still, others wounded by its arrows,

And still, others who chose death to escape it.

For some, it is like a hearth that warms the home,

For others, it is like a conflagration that destroys all.

Even for a single immortal or mortal

It can be all of these things, one after another

In no particular order, like our dice games.

Should one abstain from love,

Stand strong against it,

Carry a shield for protection,

Or run from it as fast as possible?

Should one approach carefully

Warming hands and heart

Or carry buckets of water to extinguish it?

What should I tell those who would study love?

Aphrodite, who was studying her face intently

In the mirror, while Daskalos blathered on,

Laughed and stood up from her throne,

Letting slip from her tunic the most beautiful breast

That poor Daskalos had ever seen,

And said, do not waste love’s precious time

By attempting to study her meandering ways.

No lesson can be learned, for even she knows not

What she will do next, to whom, wherefrom,

In what form or with what consequence.

All you can do is play love’s game of dice –

After all, it’s the gods’ favorite game too

And there is no life outside love’s casino.

Play or don’t play, it’s no matter to me.

                                    April 9, 2022

What the Hell Are Arms for?

A Palestinian babushka shoves her elbows back and forth

Trying to hurry her gnarled legs in a semblance of running

Talks to the Italian pilot approaching her,

Strafing the dust behind her feet,

“Ikh gey, ikh gey!” I’m going, I’m going!

She is pummeled to the ground by the pilot’s bullets.

An Angolan child walks through a minefield

Carefully placing her small feet in the footprints of others,

Hoping she chose tracks that reach the other side.

Of her nine sisters and brothers, she was chosen

To bring home the water. Suddenly a bird takes flight.

A young Okhtyrkan girl has walked all the way to Kharkiv,

Her belly big with child and ankles thick with pain.

She hopes her child will wait until she reaches the hospital

But the hospital is an empty shell with grey sky for a roof.

She cuts the umbilical cord with a glass shard.

I pass a sign in a store window –

‘Arms are made for hugging’.

                                    April 10, 2022

Of Good and Evil

They came to him and said,

Speak to us of good and evil.

He waited until they were quiet

And said there is no good

But the good that we do,

And there is no evil

But the evil that we do.

There is no heaven

But the heaven that we make

And there is no hell

But the hell that we create.

There are no angels

But us, angels with vaginas

And penises, who do good

For others who need good done.

What about the animals

That would kill us

Or the catastrophes

That would destroy us, they asked.

Animals are not evil, he said.

It is their nature to do

What they and their loved ones

Need to survive. We also

Have such a nature.

Neither are catastrophes evil.

They happen when and where

Other things or events cause them.

Some argued, what you say

Is not what we were told.

He answered, then go to them,

But first, open your eyes

And see for yourselves.

They are not wiser than you or me.

If we have animal natures, another asked,

Then how can we do evil?

We do evil, he answered,

When we take more than we need to survive

From others who have less than they need

And when we harm others unnecessarily.

Evil perpetuates evil until it is buried

So deeply under acts of goodness

That nobody remembers it anymore.

And how can we do good, someone asked.

Good is more difficult than evil, he answered.

It’s almost impossible, because

Good involves making a perfect thing

More perfect. You see, evil is easy

Because it involves making a perfect thing

Less perfect. Create something better

That did not exist before you.

Make a good thing better.

Save someone or something good

From being destroyed.

Be somebody’s angel.

Make somebody’s heaven.

What about all our churches,

Mosques, temples, and

Other sacred places, they asked.

He said, there are no sacred places.

You cannot build those things

From wood or stones.

We are our churches, mosques, and temples.

They are built from our actions.

They will stand if we build them from goodness

Or they will fall if we build them from evil.

They were quiet and each one left

In his or her own separate way.

                                    April 15, 2022

Nothing Is Sustainable

In the end, nothing is sustainable.

The second law of thermodynamics – entropy.

Life can run and it can hide

Or build a great wall against the hordes,

But the universe will find it

And tear it apart, molecule by molecule.

Life is a heroic resistance against the great night,

But like a Greek tragedy, the end is ineluctable.

If we ponder it sufficiently, we realize that

There is no good or evil in the universe –

All is either life or entropy. There are those

Who would resist it as long as possible

And others who would receive it sooner than later.

                                                April 18, 2022

A Wise Child

It’s a wise child

Who keeps his heart

In its cage, never released

Until he meets the shining one,

Or he’s a child who has never loved,

For the heart is a monstrous beast

With a gaping maw that would

Consume another with its

Voracious love,

And the shining one

Is the one with equal love.

Each one, apart, off-balance

But together a fortress

Of stability against

The world’s insanity.

April 18, 2022

The Rivers of Entropy

Who wouldn’t want to travel through time,

To go back through time to some beloved memory

Or forward in time to some hoped-for future,

And then back to the present in time for tea

Or live forever in the best of all times?

But time travel is no more than an opium dream,

Since the future does not yet exist until

Something causes it and the past no longer exists

Once it passes into oblivion. It’s a good thing,

Because otherwise, we’d be running into

Our younger selves, killing our grandparents,

And suddenly disappearing paradoxically.

Like Tantalus, if we bend down to drink

The refreshing waters of the past, they dry up,

And if we reach up to grasp the fruits of the future,

They rise out of our reach, the rivers of entropy,

And we are dragged along unwillingly.

                                    April 19, 2022

Lost in Time

Let’s go for a walk

Like we used to do.

We’ll take some things to eat

And maybe a sleeping bag

In my backpack.

My back is still strong.

You’ll take my hand

And I’ll help you up the rocks

Like we used to.

I never let you fall, except that time

That you tripped over that tent peg

Someone left in the ground

And broke your ankle.

We’ll start in the north near Dan,

Where Abraham rescued Lot

From the Mesopotamians,

And work our way south

To the mountains of Eilat

That Moses passed by leading

The Hebrews to the promised land.

We’ll know this land through our legs

And they will be strong again

Like they once were and

We will walk like the cedars

With strong roots through the land,

Planting one foot after another.

This land is a time machine out of which

Flows all the time in this world

Flowing backward and forward,

And we will be young once more

Lost in this time, lost together,

Until the end of time.

                        April 22, 2022

Tel Dan

You tell me it’s ok, so I leave you

At the foot of the tall ladder and climb up

To the old guard post at Kibbutz Dan.

To the west I fill my eyes with the naked beauty

Of Mount Hermon. From its peaks we can see

Our enemies’ doings, but it’s enough for me

Just to see something bigger than all of us.

I climb back down the ladder

To where you worry about me,

Pick up my backpack, take your hand,

And we walk a few clicks to ancient Dan

Where each Spring it drinks Hermon’s snowmelt

And quenches River Jordan’s meandering thirst,

You with your Nordic walking sticks, looking like

You’re skiing down the rocky dirt paths,

And me with my watchful heart.

                                    April 27, 2022

The Banality of Evil

Remember the name

Chaya Shpigal Weissman

Born sometime in 1870

Murdered sometime, somewhere

No rainbow reported by anyone.

The only one who might know

When and where she was killed

Was probably the one who pulled the trigger

Twisted open the gas pipe

Smashed her head with his rifle butt

Pushed her off a balcony

Or buried her alive

But he probably wouldn’t know who she was

Just like we don’t know the names

Of the animals we eat or the trees we cut down

Just another Jew, a job like any other

Somebody had to do it, everyone said.

Nobody’s left to say Kaddish

Or light a candle for her memory.

Remember Chaya Shpigal Weissman.

                                    April 28, 2022

Merom Golan

From Dan we amble up the Banias river,

(Named for the impious Pan but

The locals had no p’s on their palates)

Flowing beside the base of Mount Hermon

Until we reach the base of the western Golan.

In our tiny country, we exaggerate the sizes of things.

Rivers are really creeks and Heights are just plateaus.

You stab your sticks into the gentle slopes

While I scramble up the rocky path and

Through the thistles, scraping palms and knees.

We finally reach a path that levels off

And enter Majdal Shams to pause for

A demitasse of strongly spiced coffee.

The locals don’t use the Shouting Hill anymore

Since everyone has cell phones, even the enemy.

From there we walk beside the road to Mas’ada,

Then Buq’ata, and the cool shade of Odem Forest.

The walking is easy enough, through the apple

And cherry orchards, happening on deer

That look at us with vague interest

And then back at what they are nibbling.

We sit on a flat rock by a pool and

Dip our naked feet into the cold water.

Across the pool from us are two gazelles,

One smaller than the other. We dry our feet

And walk on past El Rom to the Valley of Tears

Where David fought the Philistines who came back

In Syrian tanks during the Yom Kippur war

While we prayed to a god we thought could protect us.

A siren pierces the evening, maybe El Rom or Merom Golan.

I glance at my watch, and we stand at attention until it ends.

A crescent moon peeks through the clouds and I wonder

Whether we survived because of God or despite Him.

And then a thought rises up like smoke from a campfire

I thought I’d put out – if anyone is listening up there,

Let it be me that goes before you and our sons

Down that path that is not a path. Let it be me.

                                                            May 4, 2022

Rosh Pina

From Merom Golan we walk a short way to Bental

And unroll our sleeping bags near the small lake.

In the morning, we repack our backpacks and

Walk alongside the narrow road

To the lovely Avital Mountain Reserve.

We sit on a rock under a tree and spread out our breakfast

Of tomatoes and cucumbers. I boil thick coffee on the burner

Which we drink, gazing toward Al-Qunaitra.

Sated, we walk down past Ein Zivan, the Shifon Reserve,

And by late evening, we reach Benot Ya’acov Bridge.

The name means Jacob’s Daughters but, in the Bible,

Jacob and Leah had only one daughter, Dinah.

So much history flowed underneath the bridge

And galloped across it from China to Morocco.

The bridge was destroyed and rebuilt many times

From the Crusades until our war of independence.

Tired and hungry, we look for a place

To spread our sleeping bags

And share a loaf of stale bread.

Suddenly our cell phones start chirping and

I fish my phone out to see what’s so urgent –

An attack on a town in our country’s heart.

Three people axed to death, six injured critically,

Two terrorists from Jenin, on the run.

Everyone is calling home to make sure that

Everyone else is safe. Just last week

There was an attack in another town,

And the week before that, da capo al fine.

I ask you, when will death tell us – No more,

There’s no more room in this earth

For our bloodless corpses?

No one sleeps tonight.

Finally, the sun breaks night’s stranglehold

And rises tentatively, to live for another day.

We rise with the sun on our backs,

Eat the cucumbers, clementines,

And tomatoes remaining in our bags.

We hoist the backpacks on our backs

And walk down the road past

The ruins of Mishmar HaYarden

And the small airfield of Mahanayim.

Four hours after we started walking

This morning, we check into

A bed and breakfast in Rosh Pina

And fall asleep on taut bed sheets

Until hunger wakes us.

                                    May 6, 2022

The Half-Life of a Poem

The half-life of carbon-fourteen

Is five thousand seven hundred

And thirty years, plus or minus.

The half-life of a human is when

The time he’s lived is equal to

The time he has left to live.

But the half-life of a poem is different –

It starts off as nothing really,

Dead in the water, as they say,

But when it’s reached half of

What it’s going to be,

It comes alive and takes the reins

From the poet’s hand

And gallops free.

                        May 6, 2022

Imaginary Numbers

When I was a child, I remember

Hearing about imaginary numbers

And thinking how I could count

The things I imagined like

My mother coming back to us

After she had left us but

I didn’t know that it was Dad

Who made her go away

If she knew what was good for her

Or what I’d done to deserve it all

Or other things like what it’s like

To feel loved. Oh, I knew what

It’s like to love. I loved everything

My brown eyes rested on.

Let’s see, the square root of minus one

Was Connie Cheney in the third grade

The square root of minus two was

Linda Sanders in junior high

And the square root of minus three

Was Laurie Mantell in high school.

None of them ever knew, except for Connie

When my little sister, whom I’ll always love,

Told her, much to my embarrassment.

After Laurie, I knew my mother’d never return

When we got a letter she had died.

By then, I’d learned imaginary numbers

Were just metaphors of reality and

Imagination would likely remain imaginary.

                        May 10, 2022

Safed

We woke with the first sunlight piercing

Our eyelids through the window glass.

After breakfast and checking out

We left Rosh Pina on foot for Safed

Six sweaty hours away.

                                    The first thing

That hits you is Safed’s elevation.

It’s like having to walk to heaven

Or some other equally unworldly place.

Safed has been destroyed and rebuilt

Sometimes by God’s earthquakes

And sometimes by men.

The current Safed, filled with mystics

And artists of all sorts, bears little resemblance

To the first Safed, during the Second Temple

Hardly a village, a place someone climbed up

To light a bonfire and wave a torch

In wide arcs until someone on another mount

Waved back, and so on and so forth

Until all of Israel and the Diaspora knew that

A New Month or some religious festival

Had arrived and it was time to sow their seed

Reap their harvests or dance in the streets.

During the Spanish Inquisition, when Christians

Burned Jews at the stake to save their souls

Some Jews escaped their fates on ships to America

While others went to Safed to study Kabbalah.

These days, the Kabbalah is explained by patient rabbis

To impatient tourists in easily digested sound bites.

We walked through narrow streets of cobblestone

That must have been inspired by Escher’s staircases,

Which ghosts hurried past perpendicularly

To return to their graves before the Sabbath.

We found a small but rather charming hotel,

Checked in and, after stowing our backpacks,

Decided not to go back out to wander around,

Knowing we’d never find our way back,

And succumbed to our dervish dreams.

                                    May 12, 2022

A Casting of Bones

What are you now that I can only see

You with my eyes tightly closed,

That I can only hear what you say

In utter silence? What are you now?

That I only feel your touch

When I am so alone?

That I can only think of you when

I can’t think of anything else?

What are you now, besides

The white bones, laying where they fell,

Cast like some I Ching prediction

Of my fate? What have you

Gone on to become, my love?

                        May 13, 2022

Love’s Proof

There are two people

In the world who

Don’t need proof

Of love,

The one who loves

And the one who

Is loved.

May 14, 2022

Out of Sequence

Sometimes

I like to think

Of the images

Of your life

Out of sequence.

Then I don’t think

About the last one.

May 14, 2022

In Praise of Craziness

I’m not in love with rationality.

It’s just something you have to

Pay some attention to

To stay alive.

But alive for what?

For the sake of irrationality,

That’s what.

Irrationality is that great fountain

Of inspiration and love

That we drink from with big gulps

Whenever we can or if we can’t,

It is what we crawl toward

In this desert we call life.

You can’t get inspiration or love

By any known path or place

Or time or doing,

Nor any math or logic,

And yet it happens

To those who somehow

Cup themselves in readiness

Out of time or space

To drink those waters.

May 17, 2022

Sunrise over Hades

Over and over

Millions and billions

Of years the sun rises

Sisyphean over the eastern hills

Pushing the earth up one hill

And down another with its

Photons toward Lyra’s Vega

Only to go around the mulberry bush

Back to Sirius again and again.

Entropy, the universal escape clause

From eternal existence as Death

Escapes eternal consciousness,

To watch what we love change

Little by little, one mote at a time,

Until it no longer is what we

Once knew and loved,

But something else alien.

May 26, 2022

Just Three Things

You can keep your world

Of wars, diseases,

and unbreathable air.

My world consists

of just three things:

a frog

a bridge

and crayon.

June 4, 2022

Dream of Peace

I dream of peace

Of gentle living

Of love between

Our brothers and sisters

No matter what their color

Or where they came from

Of enough for all

Because life was never meant to suffer

Of letting all things be

Of looking forward

Instead of back

But then I wake up

In my foxhole

My canteen dry

And my rifle aimed

At the dust clouds

On the horizon.

                        June 4, 2022

The Cut-out

Sometimes a starry night

Or a thick grey fog

That walks beside me

But more often than not

It’s your absence

Like a child’s cut-out

Of a page torn from

Someone’s notebook

That won’t let me be.

Time is loss

Like memory.

It slips from the thinnest moment

Into a vast ocean of disappearance

Which is just another word

For absence.

There is a language

For speaking of absence

And it is silence.

            June 5, 2022

All You Need

Don’t ask for ink or pen

To write your book,

You have all you need.

All the deaths and battles,

Wounds and pains,

Made you what you are.

            June 5, 2022

Mount Meron

Morning — we venture out of the hotel

And find an easy hiking trail to Mount Meron,

Just four kilometers, all told. By car,

It would take us twenty-six; so much for cars.

Meron was where Joshua defeated the Canaanite kings

With God’s helping hand and well-aimed hail.

Carob trees are scattered along the trail.

The pods and seeds are edible when fresh

And make a fine tea, if you have the time.

Shimon Bar Yochai and his son lived in

One of the many caves dotting the hills

And lived on carob pods for two years

While they hid from the Romans

Who had sentenced them to death.

Meron is where the faithful go on Lag BaOmer

To prostrate themselves on the graves of rabbis

To hasten the coming of the shy Sheheena,

Shimon bar Yochai, who revealed the Zohar,

Died on Lag BaOmer in the second century CE

His tomb on Meron draws the most prostrations

On this same day each year. The celebrations

Are wild with dancing, singing, and bonfires,

Men in black jumping up and down on bleachers

Till they collapse under the weight of their joy.

Last year, forty-five people were trampled to death

Trying to leave his tomb to board a bus for home.

Toward dusk, all along the trail, we hear

A cacophony of howling wolves,

Jackals and foxes, invisible to us

And the streetlights of Safed

Dance in the distance.

                                                June 6, 2022

Where the Trees and Rivers Laugh

Sparrowhawk spoke to himself

When he was alone

Which was many moons

Since the young no longer heard

And the elders no longer sang.

He said, fly away, Sparrowhawk,

High and away, above the sun

And the clouds, above the night

To the land where the stories are true,

And the people are too, and the mountains

And trees and the rivers laugh

And smell like forever.

Where the elders went

I will follow.

                        June 16, 2022

What If Words

What if words could fly

Their images high in the sky

And their dark shadows

Running across the fields and hills?

What if words were gods

What colors they’d create

In the beginning there’d be silence

And then there’d be a word?

What if words were real

And someone tried to lie

He’d cough and gag

Until he’d die?

                        June 21, 2022

Questions by the Sea

A child asked his father,

Is death ugly?

The father answered,

It depends on whom you ask,

One who lives will say it’s ugly

But for one who’s dead

It’s neither beautiful nor ugly.

The son asked,

How long is death?

The father again answered,

It depends on whom you ask,

One who lives will say “forever”

Or if he’s honest, “I don’t know”,

But for one who’s dead

It’s less than an eye’s blink.

The child shoveled some more sand

Into his little red bucket

By the gentle sea.

            June 22, 2022

Memories

Memories

Too many to count

Hoards moving forward

Without bodies

Staring into the windowfronts

Without seeing

As they pass

Shuffling down the streets

And sidewalks

Traffic lights turn red

Green then yellow

And red again

But they don’t stop

They just keep ambling along

The weight of them

Unseeing unthinking

Remembering.

            June 24, 2022