Sunday, December 2, 2012


That mango rind
In the garbage bin
Visible under the rags
Tempts you as you perch
On the ledge
You decide on impulse
To jump through a window,
Knocking over plates and glasses
In a kitchen
And spilling a jar of flour
All over the floor
Because the figs on the table
Had to be eaten

You dart
Hearing an angry voice
And jump out the window
Missing the swat of a broom

It is a tiresome life
Always leaping and fighting
Driven by hunger
And having to show your buttocks
In submission to the leader
With sad, searching eyes
You turn, scratching and
Raising your tail,
To dive into the garbage for that rind

Flying Snake

The art of flying
Is an art of descent
The snake buoyed by currents
While gliding gently down
Springing from a tree branch
Coiling and uncoiling
Sinuously spiraling
Through the capacious emptiness of space
The art of flying
Is an art of falling, of leaping,
Bold acceptance of the air
Letting go through total release
But not passivity

Friday, November 23, 2012


An abhorrence of the sun and sky
That calmly watch as all things die
A turning from the cold and heat
No place on earth to find retreat
Cautious in the day
Fearful in the night
A hardship to stay
A terror to take flight

Your beloved is hidden
An anchoress for an unknown god
Emails, phone messages, sent
Words upon words
An altar of words
With offerings of love
Through language, voice, inflection
But no gesture
Not even a face
Seen through a cloister gate

What started as a small cloud
Became a storm
Wind and rain lashing
The house from the roof
To the foundation

With the smallest things
Can tempests come
To test if a house will stand

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Treasures of the Snow

The doctor pauses, taking off his glasses. He looks at the CT-scan on the lighted screen and moves closer to the image. He puts his glasses back on and turns to Steven.

--“It’s probably nothing,” he says. “But we have to make sure. You understand.”

--“Couldn’t it just be sinus congestion,” Steven says.

The doctor sits down at his desk and makes notes in a folder.

“It could be, yes,” the doctor says, keeping his gaze directed at the folder. “Most likely it’s that but better to rule out anything else.”

--“What else could it be?,” Steven asks, clutching the armrests of his chair.

--“That’s a hard question to answer,” the doctor answers while continuing to write his notes. “So many things but it’s pointless to speculate.”

--“Something serious?”

--“Well, that’s why we have to check.”

Steven feels his heart speed up. The doctor looks so young with his smooth beardless face. Steven remembers his family doctor as a kind old man with gray hair. Now Steven is the older man and the doctor a boy.

--“But what could it be?”

--“I don’t like to guess,” the doctor says, finally looking up with cool blue eyes. “First things first. We’ll get a biopsy.”

--“What are you looking for? Cancer?”

The doctor tightens his expression in hearing that word, but then softens his features and gives a reassuring smile.

--“We just want to eliminate anything other than a bad sinus condition. We’ll get you in and out in no time and then we’ll know. I’ll arrange to have a room available for you Monday.”

--“It’s that serious?,” Steven says in a tense, high voice.

--“I didn’t say that,” the doctor replies cautiously. “But why wait?”

Steven has reasons to wait. He has work to do back at the office.

--“Now don’t worry,” the doctor says, lightly touching Steven’s shoulder. “We’ll take good care of you.”

When he gets outside, the air is biting cold and the wind seems to push him down the street. Everything around him is strange as if he is seeing each object for the first time from a far distance. A huge billboard advertisement for lingerie, in which a woman lies languidly against her seminude male lover, seems from a planet that has not heard of death. People in shops and restaurants, people walking around him talking into cell phones, appear oblivious to the fact now seared into him that their bodies are engines of self-destruction. He thought about death before but it was always a philosophical question, not a reality hinging upon a surgeon’s report. He wants to jump outside of his body, to escape, to run but he is mired in himself, soul wrapped in flesh.

He stops at a street corner, waiting for a traffic light to turn green. He still is cautious, when for all he knows, he could just as well hurl himself into the traffic and take his chances, given the silent threat within his body. His head is so stuffed, he feels it will explode. The lack of air makes him dizzy and seals him off even further from the people near him. He watches a gaunt man in a tattered sweater with more holes than wool push a huge cart full of plastic bags and metal cans across the street, forcing the cars to stop for him as he slowly moves forward.

Steven arrives at his office building and smiles to the security guard without betraying the feeling of terror that is stealing over him. He rises in the swift, silent elevator to the office of his law firm and enters with a mask of pleasantness.

--“How are you today?,” says one of his partners, coming around a corner. “You were at the doctor?”

--“Yes,” says Steven casually, “they’re going to do a little work on my sinus condition, clear things up. They have an opening on Monday.”

--“Well, you gotta do what you gotta do,” says the partner, a pudgy balding man with deep-set eyes. “You have the papers on the Bernstein case?”

--“All filed,” says Steven.

--“You’re a litigation machine,” the partner says walking farther away down the hall.

Steven goes into his office, and closes the door. He sits at his desk, turns on his computer, and gazes out the window. He looks at the new building that was just erected. It is a sleek graygreen rectangle with black opaque windows. Facing his desk again, he stares at the objects and papers arrayed before him. He blinks at items he has seen every day but now they appear foreign as if unearthed from an ancient site, from a world totally alien to his. He picks up his pen and his coffee cup marked “Steve” but though he holds them he is completely detached. Everything around him, whether identifiable with him or not, will either remain when he is dead or vanish into nothingness with him.

He checks his e-mail and sees that he has a meeting on Monday. He will have to cancel it. All he has had over the years is his work. He rarely took sick days unless a doctor ordered him to have bed rest and only occasionally took vacation time. Now, if the biopsy is positive, the work would be leaving him behind. Others would gladly and greedily vie to take over his position in the firm. He wanted to respond to an adversary’s motion but there might not be time. Someone else would have to do it or secure an extension from the judge. If he could just concentrate he had forty-eight hours before the surgery. He would force himself to focus. Work while the time is at hand, he tells himself, before the hour comes when no one can work. He opens a law book and starts reading a case. He tries to make himself small as if death will overlook him but death can make itself small and enter the smallest of cells. Monday was looming up, coming at him, as a colleague used to say, “like a jail on wheels.”

He leans back in his chair. He cannot breathe. He feels he is suffocating. What he thought had been a mere head cold turned sinister and strange. He turns on the radio near his desk. Waves of music wash over him. It is Bach. The high plaintive strains speak of a suffering God in love with His creation. He looks out the window and sees the wind blow scraps of newspaper up into the air. He heard a priest say that God permits evil to make a greater good out of it. He holds his head and wonders what the good was of his torment. The fear in him is building. He hopes that none of his colleagues will see his anxiety. His weakness would be scorned more than pitied. He feels he is going off a cliff, as if he were launched out the window of his office and suspended far above the street with only the swirling wind around him.

The office is getting colder. There is something wrong with the heating system. He phones the building custodian but gets no answer. He tries again to work but gets up and paces around the room. He has to talk with someone. He goes out of his office and sees his secretary. She is wearing a coat while typing on her computer.

--“It’s really cold up here,” he says.

--“Yes,” she says, “I had to put this on.”

--“Is anybody working on it?”

--“We can’t reach the custodian. We’ve called.”

--“This is intolerable.”

He walks down the hall and passes the office of a senior associate at the firm. He has had a crush on her from the beginning but never said a word for fear of a harassment charge.

--“Are you cold?,” he asks.

She looks up from her papers as if suddenly surprised by hearing a human voice.

--“Oh, hi, yes it is cold. But girls always feel the cold.”

--“Men do too,” he says.

He looks at her. She has a pretty almost beautiful face with soft brown eyes.

--“Working hard?,” he asks.

--“I’ve been going at this brief for days. I’ve got to get it finished. I’ll probably have to work through the weekend.”

--“That’s a shame,” he says. “You need some time for yourself.”

--“That sounds funny coming from a man known as “the machine.” All those billable hours,” she says with a smile.

--“You don’t want to become a machine.”

He starts to turn and move away from her office but he can’t move. He stares at a wall. She looks at him with curiosity but says nothing.

--“I was wondering,” he says.

--“Excuse me?”

--“I was just wondering.”


--“If, when you take a break, you might want to have dinner?”

--“Dinner?,” she says with full open eyes. “It’s one o’clock.”

--“I meant later or maybe lunch if you haven’t had anything yet.”

--“Thanks. I had some yogurt.”

--“Good. Just wondering maybe about dinner. Feel like I could go out for something.”

--“Tonight? Oh, gee, tonight I’m seeing a friend from college. She’s coming in from out of town. Maybe next week?”

He stares down at the floor.

--“I might not be here next week,” he hears himself say.

--“Meeting a client?”

--“No. Just having some surgery Monday. Clear up a little sinus problem. Don’t know about recuperation time.”

--“I have a cousin who had a bad sinus condition and they did a procedure and she’s fine now. I’m sure they’ll fix it.”


--“The main thing is to stay positive.”


He looks down at the dull carpeting on the office floor and waits for a moment before walking back to his office. He can see that the wind has increased and that is starting to snow. Damp white flakes hit against his window. It is getting even colder in his office. He puts on his coat and sits in front of his computer looking at the blank screen.

Shutting his eyes, he starts to pray for help with an inner quavering voice full of apprehension. Monday was coming. His mind races with the possibilities of what could happen.

--“How you doing Sir?”

He opens his eyes and turns to see in the doorway the elderly man who was still working on the garbage detail, cleaning out wastebaskets into a large recycling bin.

The man wears an insulated vest over his uniform and a big pair of gloves.

Steven never said more than a few passing words to the man in all the years they shared the same working space. He wants to have the man sit down and talk. He studied the man’s face. It was ancient with origins in Africa and the Caribbean. The man had been old for a long time. Steven imagines gripping him by the shoulders and asking him about life but instantly rejects that fantasy. He would only frighten the man and, besides, such conduct was simply impermissible.

--“I’ve been better,” Steven says.

--“I hear you. I’ve been feeling poorly myself,” the man says with quiet resignation.


--“I’ve got arthritis in my fingers. You can see the knuckles, getting all bent and twisted.” He takes off a glove and holds out his hand for Steven to inspect. “Don’t know how much longer I can work.”

--“I’m sorry.”

--“Well, it’s all in God’s hands. My hands are in his. And a good glass of hot rum will do you good too.”

--“I’ll have to try that.”

--“Even if you ain’t better, you feel better,” the man says with a wide smile.

--“I have a sinus problem. Can only get a little air in.”

--“I’m sorry about that Sir. It’s funny how air can get into even tiny places because it doesn’t have a body to it. It’s like a spirit.”


--“Well, God bless Sir, I hope you feel all right.”

--“Thank you.”

The man cleans out the basket in the office and prepares to leave.

--“By the way, where is the custodian?,” Steven asks. “I’ve tried to reach him.”

--“He’s coming Sir. It will just take a little bit of patience.”

Steven turns and sees the graygreen construction across the way through sheets of wet snow. The street is emptying as people retreat indoors and a few skidding cars move on. To wait quietly with patience becomes his prayer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mono No Aware

The noise of ticking
Penetrates the room
You open your eyes to
The clock’s display
Of hour and minute, and seconds
That race like scudding clouds
The first law is the hardest
Though with change
There is the possibility of a new you,
A better you,
Rising from sleep--
But thoughts of morphing from flesh to bone
Shifting from world to world
Or to the void
Makes you close your eyes
And try to sleep again
To stop the ticking,
The relentless seconds,
The scudding clouds
The coach moves furiously on wheels
Turned by horses lashed to speed
En route to the new city--
An escape to novel amusements
Evasion from the rattling coach
Gaining from behind--
The heavy sun descending
Spurs the lash
But bridles the driver

Sunday, July 1, 2012


With the snail
You take the first small steps
Up the steep path
Moving slowly and deliberately
For the ascent is long
And arduous
From a distance
All is simplicity
A triangle with clouds
At its peak
But then, when closer,
The winding paths in mist
Give you pause

Slowly you go up from station to station
Reassuring yourself that others have journeyed
Though the climb is your own
You see in the distance huts for travelers
Temporary lodging at each stage

The idea of the mountain is not the mountain
Your walking stick touches rocky gravel
As you move one foot in front of the other

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Build a temple on solid land
With brick not made of human hand
Empty all within the space
And make of it a holy place
Though the oceans rise and the strong winds blow
A stream of pulsing light will flow
Radiating down from far above
To fill the temple with abounding love

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blue sky
The perfect day
But with a little cloud not visible
Registered only in your mind
As you watch the sun
Start its descent

Sunday, February 26, 2012


The nothing that there is
And the nothing that is not
The nothing that made something
For a return to nothing
The nothing that is known by negation
The nothing between you and it
The nothing that is you
The nothing that is it
The nothing between you and you
The nothing between it and it
The nothing

Saturday, February 25, 2012

At twilight
Down cracked marble steps
You enter the centuries old royal garden
Fog clouding the landscape
Weathered statues
With severed heads and arms
Stand in shadow
Their images reflected in the leaf-strewn ponds
The air overripe with decay
Untended black trees covered with lichen
Bend toward a white sky
Overgrown shrubs destroying
The once precise geometry
Of the gardener

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A child's balloon
Its string tangled
In a tree's high branch
Waiting, straining,
For the wind to set it free

Thursday, February 9, 2012

To disappear across the border
Or escape into the high mountains
Cover your tracks in the dense forest
Or swim in fathoms beneath the sea
Congregate with snow monkeys
Or with reptiles on the desert floor
You take yourself wherever you go
Under the watchful sun

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Desperately clinging to existence
You permit your brain to be scanned, mapped,
And transferred to a computer
Where your consciousness resides
Digitalized among the pulsating lights
And tangled wires
Jolts of memory
Flashes of your life
Appear on a screen
Mother's face
The sun, the sea, the stars,
Fireworks in the park
Your first lover's smile
All coolly surveyed in the circuitry
Detached memories of joy, frustration, sorrow
Days experienced in human flesh
Now mediated through a machine
While busy technicians walk by
In the noisy laboratory

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Show the way to the Holy City
Show the way that you shall go
Up to the mountain of the Holy City
Up to the temple of the Lord
Look out over rooftops, over fields of plenty
Look out under a vaulted sky of blue
Give thanks that the Lord has bid you hither
Give praise that the day of peace has come

Monday, January 23, 2012

As you look out the train window
And watch the old buildings go by
You imagine that one day you will wake up
On the wrong side of town
In the wrong bed
With the wrong partner
And that this is all
Just a matter of time

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sky Burial

On the charnel grounds
There are no illusions
The body is broken apart
And offered on a slab
For vultures--
But in that rocky, jagged world
There is a recompense
For those whose epitaph might read
“Never really lived, but died anyway”
That, at the very least, one can serve
A larger purpose and become
A source of nourishment

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A parallel universe
Beside you
Shielded from view
As if by smoked glass
Grandfather reading
Grandmother in the kitchen
Then, now, after
Movements across time
As time and space bend
The walls of the hotel
Are so thin
You can hear the scream
As if in your room
You start up from sleep
And see the moonlit clouds
Through the window
You feel your breath go faster
In your constricted chest
While voices whisper near your door--
That scream, was it yours?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cold Storage

A human head
Left in a tube
Looking with frozen eyes
Blindly at countless dawns
Trapped in a world of ice
Its former owner
Having prayed
With the fervor of the holy
For resurrection

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The sudden shower
At the canal
The waves rocking the boats
The stone walls of the castle
Turning dark gray from the wet
While lightning savages the sky
And makes the air electric
This moment in the soaking rain,
Remembered in a year? a decade?
Kept in a cosmic record for the afterlife
Or swirled down the rain gutter
Into oblivion?
It is now, this feeling,
This rain

Monday, January 2, 2012

Like a seed
In the earth
At the mercy
Of Winter and time
Under the glare of the sun
And the gaze of the moon
Through generations of green
And yellowing leaves
Amidst the passing voices
Of children and old men
It waits enclosed
Until that Spring
When slowly it breaks through
And flowers