Old linens, tattered clothes that once belonged to women and children, locks of hair, locket-bound; these things interest him, these things infused with memory. Does he dare to unfold them, unlock what's locked? Does he dare to bring these fragments to his nose? Does he stand there like a fetishist, transfixed, fingering these faded silks and torn cottons? Does he probe their private places? Can you blame him? To drink! To smoke hashish! To live a disordered life! To do the unthinkable is the thing. But a cupboard can only hold so many secrets and he can't get that song out of his head. Songs are like that and so are unfaithful men married to faithful women. Sometimes Rimbaud wants to blow his brains out, but it will be a few more years until he owns a gun, and by then it will be too late. Rimbaud's dreams are full of Indians and a sinking boat. One doesn't have to be a genius to figure out the meaning of this one. Rimbaud will limp through the rest of his short life. It's a shame when a lover is jealous of a few good words on a page. When did it all begin? If Rimbaud counts backwards he must have been ten. He was such a pretty boy. People listened for a while.
The Black Death started in 1333;
not the first plague in history.
But once it went to the European towns,
it devastated things for miles around.
It struck a bunch of marauding Tatars,
and it hit Constantinople and Venice later.
It reached Cypress, and then it hit Florence,
and destroyed humanity with violent abhorrence.
It hit France and England in 1348;
black death conquering with a spirit irate.
England had the third coldest winter in a row;
crops were poor and just would not grow.
Two thirds of British people extinguished;
but the death didn't just stop with the English.
Poland and Russia were the next to get hit;
monastery wine was produced by the Brits.
A horse no longer sold for forty shillings;
because the Black Death was constantly killing.
The fish trade was jeopardized; it came to a halt;
because of a drop in production of salt.
The hundred year war preceded the crisis;
they tried to sell food at reasonable prices.
But a farmer couldn't afford a leg of mutton;
only a wealthy man could be such a glutton.
Famine struck France, and they took a turn;
three hundred peasants are set on fire to burn.
How did the human race ever move forward?
Everything was destroyed by famine and sword.
The human race cannot go on forever;
the youth must save us, I'm glad they are so clever.
had been long and lax
the night pearl and blue
time with you noting
rhythms of creation
made the moon to mark
the seasons and by extension
you into my life
dividing night from day
and you—work of God's
fingers—my life made new.
Was not a tree available,
a hollow dead thing, nude—
branched and shivering,
the perfect drum for
your beating beak?
Instead, you chose
the house next door,
its wooden siding
neatly painted cappuccino,
once a tree, now
a habitation for humans,
not birds. I've heard
your rhythmic clacking
in the late afternoons,
working a perfect round
into the cedar, making a hole
ready to swallow you, a rich
reward, a repose for your labors.
I've watched your topknot
doing its jackhammer drill,
then disappearing into the miniscule
space to nurture young, or make
a place for yourself alone,
a conquering hero
not much bigger than my thumb,
leaving me relieved
that the damage has been done
to the neighbors' house. They await
your small head's welcome
on the other side of the wall,
where they thought
they'd be safe.
(First published in Third Wednesday
the poor dumb poet
evasively writes in metaphor
of cohesive-less current events
wishing he were intimating
of brandishing love on a tender sword
rather than rocks to smash windows
and flames inciting charred skeletons
of livelihoods in smoldering ruins
a Peace sign scrawled upon the wreckage
of a Black and White
the motor gunned
then shot out
burning rubber bullets
in a maze of hateful contingency
and across the pond,
a family sits at the breakfast table
watching their little black and white
deliver a menu of
cohesive-less current events
while the parents place books on the table
in front of the children,
that pillage their minds
with romantic appetizers
from old time bards
who could never have imagined this.
He was having a good day. A nurse evaluated him. He couldn't answer most questions, but he knew it was spring. He couldn't sign his name. He thought it was January. Still, he was having a good day.
I wanted to leave. I had done my time—spent hours with the nurse and his caregiver. I had to grade papers, buy some groceries, get home to have dinner with my husband. But he was having a good day, and when I tried to say good-bye, he asked me when he would see me again. I told him soon, and that I would bring cake.
"Cake?" he asked, expectantly. I asked him what kind he would like. "Chocolate," he said from his hospital bed.
So I left and went to Jewel, then returned with two giant pieces of cake. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting, and marble cake frosted with chocolate. He chose the red velvet.
I spoon fed the red velvet cake into his mouth. He said it was very good. Afterwards, I turned on CNN and stayed to chat. He played with my key chain like an infant. He reached up and tried to unzip my sweatshirt. He pointed to my T-shirt.
"It's the Scream," I said. "A painting by Edvard Munch."
He smiled and reached out to touch me. He said one word.
"What did you say, Dad?" I asked.
"Heart," he whispered, then closed his eyes.
(Previously published in The Caregiver, Holy Cow! Press, 2018)
Life really does go on
So sing your get well song
And keep moving right along
Helpful prayers can't be wrong
The day is coming it is almost here
The family support is sure to appear
A pat to comfort, a big hug is near
The gifts of family bring loving tears
Though forth we go and daily hope
Our friends and even others note
A plan to share and tend to those
Who need some cheer not to mope
A plan of sorts, can shape each day
The way to appreciate what we all need
Clean air and water, our earth to plead
For a future world we all must heed
The warnings grim, the calls for change
A need for all to do their little things
To save the bees & others with wings
So food and life are there for all beings.
Roses needn't be red, white or yellow.
I see purple in them, as in lilacs and orchids.
I take a few moments to sit in my room,
empty my mind of tiring tasks,
and taste the rose-scented rippling air
of my summers and winters.
In my twilight years, I discover the shades
of my decades, noticing deep colors.
Purple is in my moods, sorrowful or peaceful,
watching sunset's amethyst clouds
darken the roses or the butterfly's violet
wings skimming over regal petals.
I feel roses' moist buds, see the sound
of falling blossoms in sun and rain
during this short stay.
Enjoy your day as it comes
with joy and appreciation
from sunlight to dawn
each minute to hour
embrace as it is your last
with no regrets for better or worst
cherish each precious moment
with each glory day that God brings you
with your counting blessing
Time is the essence
with each hour that we breath
with each memory we form
with each celebration that we create
with each step that we take
Live your life to the fullest
and make the best out of it
Karma is the seed that you sow
like a flower that you plant
from day one of your birth
to the final day of your absence
So seek kind to other
for the reward that you make
for the return of given
from your graciousness heart
Tell me now if I have been wrong,
But I have believed all my life
That eating whatever I want each day
Will help me handle life's strife.
And in my mind and in my dreams
The very best diet in the land,
Is the one where you make absolutely sure
There's a chocolate bar in each hand.
So set me straight, is there a better way
To handle all life's stress?
Perhaps if I use the wits I was given,
The answer will be "Yes".
playing fiddle among the wildflowers at the top of the hill. Tunes the older players taught when they were her connection to the past, when she was their way of saving it. Melodies she heard on the radio late at night as the beams traveled endlessly from cities she'll never see. Patterns of notes born in her mind, hers to teach to others when the time come, theirs with luck to pass on in turn.
She's not a woman playing fiddle.
She's a fiddler,
all in one.
She and the fiddle are one.
There's a young boy standing close to her, rising to her waist, staring my way with mistrust, eyes calculating what future I might be bringing with me to this sanctuary in the rolling, climbing forest. He could be her son, a younger brother or a village ward. She looks down to him, pretending to ignore my arrival as her way to reassure him.
Perhaps she'll change her tune.
Perhaps she'll weave a new one.
Perhaps she'll start to sing
a love song or sad song
or one and the same;
they can be, you know.
And maybe she'll wave me to sit among the flowers while she dances her fiddler's dance, her mother or sister's reel. And maybe she'll gesture with beckoning smile for me to pick up my guitar and play with her, to click my heels and dance with her.
So many maybes
we neither know yet.
(First appeared in his charity fundraiser chapbook, Poems Against Cancer 2020)
Around the twenty-first of June, a gift, takes place,
The Earth has maximum of "tilt" toward sun, in space.
'Tis known as "astronomical phenomenon",
This act tells all that favorite season, has begun.
A welcome to the long awaited month of June,
For June does bring the melodies of heart — warm tunes.
The month brings long and sunlit days, to comfort, all,
'Tis gift from Nature, given time to sing — her call.
The sun in summer, nourishes all life, supplies,
While summer nights show brightly, in majestic skies.
'Tis plentiful, for creatures do respond, they sing,
And aromic fragrances escape, when flowering.
The residents on Earth, enjoy these days of fun,
The "giving" of the sun, and gentle breeze, like none.
The morning dew, does gently kiss all sleeping plants,
All nature wakes as insects sing and do their chants.
Your cheerful days, dear June, will live in memory,
We will remember, warming sun and nature's glee.
We welcome you, dear month of love, your days consume,
For you, do fill the air with joy, and rich perfume.
Earth's Northern parts, bestowed with sun's most
This, for about three months, as Earth moves on, and drifts.
Each year, our Earth returns to summer solstice, spot,
And bows to sun, receiving warmest months, it sought.
Before the extravagant feast,
the flowing wine of words,
let me break bread
at the table of
a neighbor starving
on broth-thin bromides,
elders who chew
old shibboleth scraps,
the child choking down
Let our common ground
bind me to the true words
dancing in rhythms
of stranger or friend;
spilling from city roar
or cemetery silence—
true words on their destined
path away from fingerposts
pointing in every direction.
Then, just then, let my pen
touch the waiting page,
let ink's dark nectar spill out
every ripened syllable
of words worth sharing.
From Common Ground, 2020
If asked to
try a piece of
apple or peach pie,
which would you try?
Apple would be
how I'd decide
years gone by
When a neighbor
refused to stop
from his tree
the victory from
a Mom's recipe
You ignore our RED RUGS
We ignore your RED FLAGS
We're not the only minorities
In this country but we're
The only ones that end up in
Then our last words 'I Can't Breathe'
Become nothing more than catch phrases or #Hash Tags.
From George Stinney,Jr.
Who was Railroaded in
South Carolina in 1944,
To the blatant murder of
George Floyd in 2020 in
This is going to stop we don't
Give a care if you don't
Give one iota!
It is 2020 and
We can't even take a
Sip of water from a fountain as
We go about our journey
Without some retired cop kook chasing
Behind us with a rifle and
Ending up on a gurnee.
They enter our backyards
and kill us, instead of coming
to our front doors
They shoot to kill authorized
They use us for target practice
They shoot at us so
They kill innocent bystanders
They invade the wrong homes to kill us
Some come on social media and make inane comments
about peaceful protesters likening them to looters,
When you are just as culpable and just as hateful
as the shooters...
The bees have arrived to do their work
They know their purpose — lucky souls
They have traveled from a faraway place
To open flowers and nudge the buds toward beckoning spring
Unlike humans who wander around
Lost and seeking:
What on earth were we meant to do
Should we buzz and fly?
Should we organize ourselves in groups
Or fend for ourselves
Should we fight for the queen
Or laze in the hive?
Where do we fit in the chain of beauty
Do we add more than we take away
Do others long for a taste of our honey
Or flee from our sting?
On the steam-driven Potsdam,
my grandmother and three children
trembling brave souls entered the steerage
lugging in a trunk
all they own,
with little more than hope
(before the ghetto and Auschwitz)
journeyed from the
only home they knew,
their village east of Kraków,
gambling their lives
on rumor and dreams
of free land, new life:
to escape famine and starvation
is worth the danger, they prayed.
Though stricken and shaken,
menaced by the rolling ocean's
lightning and storms
they ventured, huddled
on a rough-hewn bunk
in the belly of
the tossed bark
moaning the steerage blues
for weeks 'tween vomit and lice
but hope now, sometimes hope.
Arrived at last exhausted and frail
at the dock below the Statue,
they scour for work,
which means food and life
for the little ones,
as Liberty above
cries out to all:
"Give me your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe
There's a rock of tears spinning through space
Thus been pierced by a sword of the human race,
A heart that is sick from all the abused children now
That never get a chance to grow up in a lonely brow,
To picture a our world wearing a mask in Pandemic
Just to view the many souls departing is so systematic,
Voices cry out in the streets for justice and the meek
Those who prey on the situation to run over the weak,
Fortunately there are those who still pray of the good
The Great Spirit Father will not destroy the evil rock
The Mystical Rose will appear on this sphere of knock,
To draw a picture of a new world as everyone is safe
The divine Madonna flies over us in her loving strafe,
So watch your children that they won't be taken
That the life of the family will never perhaps shaken
Let our eyes be open to the Covid-19 to what it's done
Only positive eyes can see the truth from the holy one
Walked through the fire
Rose from the grave
Threatening to flood
Streaks of color
By wearing away
Silken waves roll before me
as city lights reflect on mountain tops.
Through the shadows of queen palms
I see you in the dark,
a work of art in night's gallery.
I am in awe of your power.
The strength of ocean I see during the day
rolling in and out, and
like a satin blanket.
All remains calm.
A mockingbird sits on top of the surf
and waits 'til morning.
The window measures two feet
by six—just right to create
a Zen view. I shift position
on the sofa to reframe it as though
taking a photograph. Aiming
for asymmetrical balance—an instinct
honed years ago in Doug Gilbert's
photography class—I place the trunk
of the linden tree off-center
balancing it with two slivers of light
still lingering from the low-slung
evening sun of late June.
I absorb the notes flowing
from the seven foot Bosendorfer—
my husband playing Chopin—
one of the fifty-eight mazurkas
a form the composer kept
coming back to over the course
of his short thirty-nine years
pieces graced with the lilt
of Polish dances—gentle
echoes of his childhood.
Beyond the window linden leaves
shift in time to the music
branches stretch their fingers
as the melodies drift
from the piano.
With no prelude
a light show begins
beneath the tree's canopy—
pinpoints of light blaze
for less than a second—flicker
and flash back into darkness.
tonight the fireflies
dance the mazurka.
(Originally published in
River Poets Journal - 2017
Vol 11 Issue 1)
We own a yellow Mazda, RX7,
a fist dent in its roof support.
Our hangar is heated out of the north wind,
with pegboard painted, picture framed,
focus of that wall.
Our home brags of numerous levels,
though the top door swings ajar,
the bottom needs parts.
The gutter is of too light a gauge
to resist hail dents.
The whole works is mortgaged,
dependent on not paying more alimony,
not crashing our too light plane,
the hope that mouths
continue to seek doctors,
want sleek bodies,
look for sun.
Poems are hard to create
they live, then die, walk alone in tears,
resurrect in family mausoleums.
They walk with you alone in ghostly patterns,
memories they deliver feeling unexpectedly
through the open windows of strangers.
Silk roses lie in a potted bowl
memories seven days before Mother's Day.
Soak those tears, patience is the poetry of love.
Plant your memories, your seeds, your passion,
once a year, maybe twice.
Jesus knows we all need more
then a vase filled with silk flowers,
poems on paper from a poet sacred,
the mystery, the love of a caretaker—
multicolored silk flowers in a basket
handed out by the flower girl.
I walked away that day, to my dismay,
I walked away unable to say,
"Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you."
From love you'd spoken truth to me,
but I envied the arrogants' prosperity.
Riches reigned on my heart's throne;
pride was my necklace—I chose to walk alone.
I spurned your offer, "One thing you lack,"
traded heavenly treasures for the self-centered track.
Yet I, a rich ruler, was plagued with fear
for walking away when you'd been so near.
In grace, you've since revealed anew
the surpassing greatness of knowing you.
Now riches I seek not, nor others' scant praise,
I walk with you, satisfied—my Treasure always.
An early woodpecker signals the start
of the avian workday. Feathered song
fills the air. A silent wind belies the busy
undergrowth. Daredevil squirrels leap
from branch to branch, their high-wire
nests still exposed, not yet camouflaged.
Emerging leaves dot twigs stretched
toward the sun. A white cloud tapestry
crowns the scene.
Soon the woodland curtain of green
will clothe brown trunks that shield
summer's drumming life. Already
white dogwood blossoms dot
the understory punctuated by puce-
colored redwood blossoms.
The sound of a distant train whistle
visits. The living forest shelters in place.
I can move the air with a wave of my hand,
move objects with a single finger,
cut a person to the core with only words,
offer a helping hand to those in need.
I can capture a moment without a camera,
compose verses to share my grief,
reach backwards to rewind time,
watch as time goes forward,
wish it to leave me behind,
think of things I wish I'd said.
I can hope you visit my dreams,
wish you were here with me.
I can gaze at the night sky,
watch you shine among the stars,
envision a day we'll shine together.
I can smile at the thought.
Your gentle, wordless greetings across
the baby gate spreads like the persistent joy
presented by this sunny summer day.
I pause in your domain with toys
of rainbow colors. Alligators and airplanes
materialize from your picture books
bringing back memories of journeys to
Everglades and my hometown Kolkata — the violin
plays by itself. I remember my adult girls
In the park the wind blows chalk off the baseball
diamond — you laugh, showing off your tiny teeth
I mimic as best as I can — same pitch and frequency
Soon, your mama and I munch on our lunch together
Paninis and salads, with fizzy lemonade — you insist
on joining the conversation by rattling the high-chair
We, the threesome, continue the laughing exchange,
punctuating with occasional peek-a-boo games
I worry about do 'gains but that does not happen
It is time to say goodbye to your mama and you.
You stand steadfast framed by the storm door
in our brains, we store pictures of each other.
I am old enough
to remember when
this type of cooperation
was still practiced.
When it was deemed
to be in the best interests
of our nation and people,
members of both parties
would join together
That was then, but now
even the word is seldom heard.
I have noticed one major exception:
When a politician dies,
both parties often come together
to praise the deceased.
this modern-day bipartisanship
comes at a significant cost,
at least to one person.
I finally got up my nerve and called you....I called you twice....Your Voicemail was full....Your Voicemail is never full....Are you OK?....I am afraid to find out....I am just a watercolor....I have no right to know....Neither wife nor lover....
May have been just yesterday
when Spring came and told me,
whispered in my ear, my dear.
Or, it may have been last year,
year before that one, or that one.
My dear, Spring said, is never the
same, year by year, remember
each flower's task is to entice
bee, to feed earth's need, feed.
No flower, no bee is ever the same
year by year, no bird, no tree,
ever the same. And you, not the
same, not the same year by year.
Each year, like a ballerina, Spring
Pirouettes toward the sun.
Dances toward summer.
This year, for the first time in so
many of my years, so many, I hear.
Hear the fear in Spring's soft chant.
Earth needs you Spring sings.
Earth is huge, hugely fragile,
so much to do, to save, to cherish.
I say to Spring, what can I do? Me,
so insignificant, so small, too small,
I fear. Then,
I shout out to Blue Jay boisterous,
let's fly together, send the message.
Earth huge, hugely fragile, as fragile as
this bee luxuriating in nectar abundant
this moment. And, tomorrow, will bee,
will we, find nectar, and earth.
You have the voice that carries beyond
tree canopies. Blue Jay, you have the wings,
your voice, our voice. Together,
we breathe Spring, breathe hope,
Earth fragile, significant as nectar to a bee.
Man's inhumanity to man took
a much-needed hit when a secret
home video showed George Floyd
-unarmed-slammed to the street,
head pounded into the ground,
neck pressed under a uniformed
knee for nine long minutes, in
the northern city of Minneapolis
Meanwhile, two novice cops
stood silently by, just watching
but not interfering. Later, news
came out that the killer-policeman
had a part-time bar security gig
with the guy he just pressed to
death on that northern street
Colonial patriots wrote our
beautiful Constitution while
engaged in slave-buying, selling
and prostitution, claiming
christianity but indulging in
hypocrisy, as they launched
a democracy to promote
the plantation economy
And now, two hundred fifty
years, thousands of lynchings
and a million murders later,
here's one more killed-by-a-cop
story, still racist, cruel and
gory, and all over a $20 debt.
We can't make sense of it yet
Scientists say the big bang
was not the great cosmic grenade
going off in the middle
of nothingness I've pictured.
Nor was it like Fourth of July
at the Washington Monument, fireworks
bursting one after another, lighting sky,
but with no one to ooh and ah.
Scientists tell me everything
everywhere exploded at once,
except until then
there wasn't any where there.
When they say the universe
is expanding outward,
it's not expanding from the center;
it has none.
Now there is a big bang in my brain.
Hand me some aspirin, please.
(First published in Journal
of Modern Poetry, 20 - 2017)
The Lord is a short order cook in an all night cafe.
Pete wears a chef's hat and white T-shirt.
He wipes extra grease on his apron.
"We doze but never close"
hangs above the register.
The Lord tells me of his regulars.
Quadriplegic young man who has a party
in his hospital room because he moved his big toe.
A girl on the west side of Chicago,
blue cockroach on her arm,
crying for her lunch.
Families who sleep in cars
because they lost their home.
I taste my soup.
The anger of being shortchanged
I carried in with me
vanishes like spit on a hot rail.
*Inspired by Hopper's painting "Night Hawks"
You stamped your feet at me
You choked my neck
You took off my clothes and laughed
You have almost broken my soul
But never again I will let you come in
God has answered my cries
My mind, my heart, and my soul
Have been washed clean
What, to go out through the inside door,
is gained and lost and revealed?
What if some organ resigns early
or an oncoming car presents crashdom
when yet no I in me prefers cessation?
From jelly and muscle and bone
did birth make me me?
Get away, I heartily say—
I rode this body into solidness
and trained it in the school of earth.
Down it goes, you say?
Slips off me overcoatlike?
Whoever in me is my inner me
says "Wasn't that life a honey?"
as out I slip through the inside door
and maybe muse
"Well, well, well"
spaciously for 800 years or so
until some earthbound man
has too many beers and
gets his wife or his woman
gently to beckon me
down to her womb
for another grade
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