Friday, February 16, 2018

World Series

They brought out the triple amputee.
We all stood at attention and applauded. 
He crossed the diamond as if freeing himself
From some device invisible to the naked eye,
In a crisp dress uniform. He stabbed the earth
With a cane, one sleeve flapping in the breeze.
The applause exploded as he jack-knifed himself
To the mound. The voice boomed again:
“Two tours in Afghanistan, Triple Amputee
Recipient of five Purple Hearts and a Navy Cross,
A true American hero,” and a name was spoken
Like one of those you hear every single day.
He tossed the ball (the pitcher held his glove
At the small of his back so he wouldn’t tumble
From the mound) home. It plopped from his hand,
Dropped and rolled a few feet away. The handsome
Faces of the players, heroes themselves, froze;
They stood tall, shoulders back, limbs complete. 
The announcer praised the triple amputee
For defending freedom, and for giving us
The chance to remember it, to salute his sacrifice.
But where, Iraq or Afghanistan, did he leave his limbs?
No one knew. No one but he thought it mattered
Which country of strangers had claimed them
As trophies of their own heroism, just that
He’s ours, and needs more than ever to feel it—
I’m thinking, Jesus, he gave up three of his four
With a good sixty years left, barring complications,
And for what but banks and business and good guys
In the stands, fans on their feet, patriots clapping
With the same thunder as the jets overhead, some
Checking to see who’s not enthusiastic enough.
Even those who showed up for baseball clapped,
While the team’s colors got painted on the heavens
Above the stadium. After the last out, defeated
Or victorious, we fight like dogs to exit the lot.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fan of Fans

Nothing’s more sad at the end of the season
Than to see the home team go the way of leaves
Falling to the earth for a long snow-packed winter
Before life returns again to my dad, fan of fans,
Who sat in his chair all summer like the captain
Of a ship hovering above the old stadium, wishing
With all his might that the boys will pull through.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fixing Plans

How can we trust the one who knows
What to do? Who has the plan? What about
The last thing he did earned our loyalty?
Sure fixed it good. But how could anyone

Believe in the plan? How could they
Listen to it, so much like the last bunch
That failed? As soon as I see someone’s plan
And an airtight argument, I split the scene

Like someone getting up from a bad film
And heading into the peopled night, digging
At popcorn slivers lodged in his gums
Wondering how he coulda been so dumb.

Monday, November 27, 2017

This World of Ours

This world of ours, so big so round so blue,
Once imagined, is a whole lot of world more than
Enough for the likes of me and you.

Unknowable, held together by the felt glue
Of mystery, with or without any mysterious plan—
This world of ours, so big so round so blue,

Coughed up magma to grow green and fluid; grew
A soul, spread itself thin through thick & kin,
Enough for the likes of me and you,

In the eye, ear, the breathing beneath our shoe
And in the visions unveiled by the messianic man,
This world of ours, so big so round so blue

In sunlight, in darkness, as if by heaven's cue,
With a sidekick moon's radiant wingspan
Enough for the likes of me and you
Who need it like love needs to stay true
To our home of selves, and we best better can—
This world of ours, so big so round so blue
Enough for the likes of me and you.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

At The Border

They hardly set their bags down and were wanted for urgent discussions. The details, where they had come from, what they had done in their home countries, what manner of religion they practiced, were already known. They were escorted to separate rooms, empty but for immigration officers on wooden chairs at metal desks with paper and pencil at the ready.

In the first room, the mother was asked to draw a portrait of her daughter. It didn’t have to be good, said the officer. That was a relief to the mother, but she still felt that she had to draw something that resembled her daughter, that it was important to get it right, and she was never any good at it. Her hand was shaky, but she managed to draw a little girl in a summer dress carrying two bags that nearly touched the ground beside her.

In the second room, the father was asked to write a poem about his loved ones, a short verse that captures the essence of their beings. The officer was a bit impatient with the father’s expression of bewilderment, so he repeated the instructions, adding: don’t worry, we know you are not a poet. The father started jotting down words and arranging them into lines and crossing them out, replacing them with others, tapping his fingers on the table.

In the third room, the little girl sat with her hands beneath her thighs, her shoes dangling above the floor. The officer pushed the paper and pencil towards her, and then got up and left the room. The little girl didn’t touch the paper or the pencil. She just sat there with her hands growing numb beneath her thighs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Extempore Exercise in Five Movements on the Death of the Master


Soon it’ll be a capital crime to aim a spot-light
At the mean face of the future, the past gone
Nowhere. Like poor fishermen, we prawn
The warm engulf of vanities, parasites
Of sea, sun, air; even among the erudite
The hook gets baited (rubber longjohns
To protect against chilling tidewater dawns).
The whole business gives me a wound-tight
Fright. Hail Masters, full of grace! Amen!
The majority never know what hit them,
Don’t know his name, his poems; like lambs
Led to the table, they're eager to send
Others to war for the taste of local hams,
And others for security terminally penned


And others blinded by their own wise light
Stare off as if being was all about being gone:
Gas, flesh, bone; the survival sense a prawn
Has scuttling the currents; fighting parasites
And ship-sized fish makes for an erudite
Denizen of the human reef. Dicks, Johns,
Toms and Harrys: O bombarded dawn,
The sound of fury and glories tight
To the line—what works gets the Amen!
I’m afraid it may all be a crock o’ bull: Them,
Us, those others, as if the fuss for smoked ham
Were incidental to the sow. Wolves eat lambs
On wide open plains under stars that send
The kind of poems no mortal’s ever penned.


Every image appears in its own word-light.
For seventy years you wrote about being gone
From hatred, suffering, hunger. A mere prawn
In comparison, I’m a sinecure’s parasite,
Slack-jawed with self-love, as erudite
As a goldfish flushed down the john.
You made gospel out of all the meaty dawns
In a top/bottom squeeze, bound up tight.
You traveled among us, and them, with them
For us, writing about women prepping hams
In camp kitchens, farmers skinning lambs
From branches in village squares, the amen
Of a grandmother with the eyes of a penned
Animal, witness to what God saw fit to send.


In prose and poetry you lit the flood-lights
Above our path, paving the way—now gone,
We walk in darkness. The toxic prawns
On the menu are the true poems of our parasite
Natures, what lies out of range—erudite
And empty, feasting like bulging Johns
Cashing in orgasms for amnesiac dawns
While night-shift girls work a pimp-tight
Schedule. To whom shall we send an Amen?
Perhaps now you are a God, or just like them:
Brodsky, your soulmate; Ginsberg, the ham
Who left us love songs naked as lambs
Sheared for cloakrooms. Could you please send
Angel reinforcements? I fear being penned!


Today at dawn I stirred to kill the light.
On the radio, news that you were gone.
(I have a new poem about a soulless prawn,
A week old pincer-clinging parasite
On the Frigidaire air, as if erudite
Flesh could leapfrog into holiness—John,
3:13, pinky-ringed in a lavender dawn.
I should have known to seal it up tight
With a prayer, a bomb, a heartfelt amen.)
And now you’re dead, bright shade among them,
Angel of song, keeper of the lambs;
Out of heaven’s clay you were made and sent
To harden in the fires of what you penned,
So we sheep might avoid the void of an end.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sea of Seasons

On a late November day you arrive,
A low sun to whet the shadow's edge,
Counterpoint for the eye at the window
Thinking of the days unreal years ago,
Winter weekends for a bell’s tones
On the footbridge that spans the globe
In the Christian Science Church,
While you made the custodial rounds—
Hello, Hello, I'd say to the giant stain-
Shape of Russia, the Soviet monster
In red, in my father’s head and yours,
Hello Africa over the railing, England,
China at my back. November cold
On Clearway, concrete, asphalt, brick
Cold, while here it’s all green and brown
Weeds in the field, young birch trees
Bent clinging to the last of their leaves.
A wall of wind crosses the road, a wave
Hits home and I think of the fortress
On Castle Island at our backs, Logan
Across the channel, the great cargo ships
From a four-cornered world unloading,
Loading up for journeys of a lifetime;
A mackerel jig on your line. What a sight
To see those dead fish with their eyes
Staring, their heads chopped off, gutted
And filleted on the dock, someone else
With a bucket, a live one too big to turn,
Dive, surface before dinner. Yes, yes,
I remember the melting weekend ice-cream
Cones on the rocks along the shore, gulls
Sailing for scraps on the fishy breeze,
You held my hand climbing down
Where the waves clapped into crevices
And the seaweed gave the motion form,
Food and cover for starfish and crabs.
You loved summer seas, winter seas
And November at the window watching
An ancient seabed shaped by the wind,
Ten thousand miles from your grave,
I think of us together, and hear it
On the other side in those days before
I knew what Novembers meant, what
Seas and seasons I'd come to navigate,
That someday you'd be gone for good
And leave me dreaming at water’s edge.