American Lullaby (poem)

1

There is no such thing as barrels of oil. No heavy crude
Drowning the world, no saccharin lighter grades so sweet
It drives mild men wild.
Go to bed my darling, there is no such thing as barrels of oil.
There are only cars made of chrome and polish, flash and speed.
One for every man woman and child
Who dreams of the open road.

2

There is no such thing as global warming.
Or for that matter old growth forests
Whose canopies could shelter a hundred, a thousand Statues of Liberty.
There is no such thing as habitat loss or endangered species
The world is good and unchanging, my child.
In our forests and lakes and mountains and deserts
Is life beyond counting and reason.

3

There is no such thing as war
No ancient hatreds or blood at the boiling point.
We’re one world, whole and indivisible.
So sleep tight in your own soft bed.
And every morning awake in your own bright room.
There has always been enough for everyone
And you will never be asked to do without.

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Three / 2004.

American Lullaby (poem)

Trompe L’Oeui

Walls
Everywhere.
Locked doors.
Shuttered windows.

What is to be done?
What does it matter?
Everything that appears
And everything that refuses
Does so by permission of the artist.

From: AMERICAN LULLABY

Trompe L’Oeui

Fallen 2

A man on fire
A woman shrunken as a dying cat.
A child beating his arms like a bird.
“Cockadoddledo.”

They emerge like hornets from behind a wall.
Each one inhuman.
Each one more monstrous than the last.

I could say, “Isn’t it just like a pageant?”
But we both know better than that.
Only a fool sees beauty in them.
Only a liar sings their praise.

Can a person really be transparent
Or a woman turn to stone?
When a people are exhausted
Anything is possible.
Watch as one man spontaneously combusts
While another blossoms into allegory.


From: AMERICAN LULLABY

Fallen 2

Fallen (On Broadway)

“I wish I understood the beauty
in leaves falling. To whom
are we beautiful
as we go?”

David Ignatow
From “Three In Transition”

 

Will I end up like him, oblivious to time and place
Furiously scratching at a small square of paper?
Better him than the woman squatting between parked cars.
Or like that tiny man, who having misplaced everything else
Decided his shoes were dispensable, too.

It’s hard to be part of another’s fall.
Fall is the only word for it.
Even from a distance it’s unnerving. Isn’t it?
And aren’t we ashamed of our response to it?
How we wish they’d go away, bad dreams and all.

Still, it’s hard to see so many falling.
Hard to imagine how anyone can be so alone
Here in a world that sings of little else but love.

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Five/ 2006.

Fallen (On Broadway)

Night In Hell Revisited

1

God continues to seek us in the strangest places.
His eyes lit from within
Like pearls in their gray closets.

2

He still calls out in that hoarse whisper of his
From those alleys he prefers
The ones with no way out.

3

Without fail he appears, shimmering in wavelengths
Invisible to the eyes he gave us
And in frequencies unintelligible
To our famous brains.

 

Published in MARGIE: The American Journal of Poetry
Volume Four/ 2005.

Night In Hell Revisited

Buddha Picturesque

Great noble heads and fragments of heads
Torsos too
And fragments of torsos.
Every piece holy
From severed hands, plump as pigeons
To expansive noses inhaling the perfume of Nirvana.

Why go on?
Because they went on so I went on
To an arm buried to its wrist
To a head set in a nimbus of roots
Each refusing to comment on its predicament.
As, for example, why it was left behind while others/
were removed
To apartments on Fifth Avenue and around the Parc/
Monceau.

Some heads are arranged in rows like chessmen.
Arms and legs, stacked like cords of wood.
A few odd pieces were set flush against a wall
That was only a memory of a wall.
A few black goats completed the tableau.

 

Begun at Ayuthaya, outside Bangkok, 1991.

Buddha Picturesque

April Rain

For Jodi Lister
Written 20 December, 1995

Even asleep she manages to make her way
Quietly, intensely as if searching for incriminating letters.
Looking up and seeing no one
I know it’s time to go to her.
To put aside the investment banking brochure
That will pay next month’s rent.

To forget until morning
Mergers and acquisitions,
Leveraged buyouts and divestitures
And listen instead to the rain
That’s been falling all night.

I want to wake her
Lead her to the window and show her
A rain that is more than weather
That is something rare
And arguably miraculous,
Like an eclipse
Or a hatching egg.

I go to her and watch her shoulders
Rise and fall as if lifted by waves.
Trolling her own waters, she has drifted
Too far out to hear my voice.

Again, I have waited too long.
Let another opportunity come and go.
The rain has stopped and the street reappears
Emerging from the dark like rocks from the tide.
Now there is nothing to do but wait.
Wait, listen and watch for her to return
Dripping, glistening, to learn what
Of the marvelous passed in the night.

April Rain

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

What is conceived and shaped and held by light
What comes to life in the light
These things don’t exist in the dark.

The dark isn’t what you think.
Or what you imagine in the light
The dark to be.

I wanted to illuminate the dark
And see for myself its different heart.
And give it a voice.

I assumed such tricks could be turned.
I was wrong.
The dark can’t be penetrated by light.

You can not know the dark without living in the dark.

 

Published in Program for “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Contest
May 5, 2003.

Daniel Pearl Got His Story

Hong Kong Harbor

On this side of the window
A shower of chrysanthemum.
Outside, torrential rain.

From this distance the world appears mute.
But if somewhere someone is singing
It’s because someone somewhere is listening.

If this were the last day of my life, would I know it?
And if I did
Would I pretend otherwise?

 

Published in The Nation, November 13, 2006.

Hong Kong Harbor

How I Know She’s Coming Home

For Jodi Lister

Her apricot soap French milled and expensive
Is wrapped in violet tissue paper
And hidden in the medicine cabinet.
In the dish on the sink she left behind
A bar of Ivory.

Plain and substantial as a baseball
That’s for me.
Five thousand miles away
And she does not want me to use her soap.

I unwrap it and hold it as carefully
As an antique netsuke. Its perfume
Rises like a summer morning
Reaching through a screen door.

When she’s here I receive strict instruction
Not to use her creams, shampoos or powders.
Although I may touch any part of her body I please
Her beauty products are taboo.

Yesterday, it removed bus exhaust and sweat
Leaving her face soft and damp,
So when I kissed her it was like touching moss.

Today, I run water, make a lather and inhale.
Although it’s my face that looks back from the mirror
It is her scent that slips into the room
Like a secret hushed from the lips that held it.

 

Published in Meridian: Best New Poets 2007
Fall/2007.

How I Know She’s Coming Home