|Shivim Panim La'Torah: Seventy Faces of Torah||
I am now posting poetry at http://www.sstte.org/poetry-corner.html. Thank you!
Autumn is always too early.
The peonies are still blooming, bees
are still working out ideal states,
and the cold bayonets of autumn
suddenly glint in the fields and the wind
What is its origin? Why should it destroy
dreams, arbors, memories?
The alien enters the hushed woods,
anger advancing, insinuating plague;
woodsmoke, the raucous howls
Autumn rips away leaves, names,
fruit, it covers the borders and paths,
extinguishes lamps and tapers; young
autumn, lips purpled, embraces
mortal creatures, stealing
Sap flows, sacrificed blood,
wine, oil, wild rivers,
yellow rivers swollen with corpses,
the curse flowing on: mud, lava, avalanche,
Breathless autumn, racing, blue
knives glinting in her glance.
She scythes names like herbs with her keen
sickle, merciless in her blaze
and her breath. Anonymous letter, terror,
Hail the hand that scattered space with stars,
Wrapped whirling world in bright blue blanket, air,
Made worlds within worlds, elements in earth,
Souls within skins, every one a teeming universe,
Every tree a system of semantics, and pushed
Beyond probability to place consciousness
On this cooling crust of burning rock.
Oh praise that hand, mind, heart, soul, power or force
That so inclosed, separated, limited planets, trees, humans
Yet breaks all bounds and borders
To lavish on us light, love, life
This trembling glory.
Dear First Born:
I’ve always loved you best because you were our first miracle. You were the genesis of a marriage and the fulfillment of young love. You sustained us through the hamburger years, the first apartment, our first mode of transportation (1955 Feet), and the seven-inch TV we paid on for 36 months. You were new, had unused grandparents, and enough clothes for a set of triplets. You were the original model for a mom and dad who were trying to work the bugs out. You got the strained lamb, the open safety pins and three-hour naps. You were the beginning!
Dear Middle Born:
I’ve always loved you the best because you drew a tough spot in the family and it made you stronger for it. You cried less, had more patience, wore faded hand-me-downs, and never in your life did anything first. But it only made you more special. You were the one we relaxed with, who helped us realize a dog could kiss you and you wouldn’t get sick. You could cross a street by yourself long before you were old enough to get married. And you helped us understand the world wouldn’t collapse if you went to bed with dirty feet. You were the child of our busy, ambitious years. Without you, we never could have survived the job changes and the tedium and routineness that is marriage.
To My Baby:
I’ve always loved you best because while endings are generally sad, you are such a joy!! You readily accepted the mild-stained bibs, the lower bunk, the cracked baseball bat, the baby book that had nothing written in it except a recipe for graham-cracker piecrust that someone had jammed between the pages. You are the one we held on to so tightly. You darken our hair, quicken our steps, square our shoulders, restore our vision, and give us a sense of humor that security, maturity, and durability can’t provide. When you hairline takes on the shape of Lake Erie and your own children tower over you, you will still be our baby!!!
Poised upside down on its duncecap,
a shrunken purple head,
enters its tightening frame of orange lip,
and the cream of a child’s cheek is daubed with
Zanzibar Cocoa, while
Here at the Martha Washington
Ice Cream Store
we outdo the Symbolistes.
a fine green trickle--
Pistachio? Mint Julep?
Words have colors,
and colors are tasty.
sweetens his chin.
In front of me Licorice teeters like a lump of coal
on its pinkish base of Pumpkin.
A Rauschenberg tongue
fondles this rich donnée,
then begins to erase it.
Turning from all that is present
in the flesh, so to speak,
let the eye wander off to a menu,
where it can start to ingest
“Quite Sour Lemon sherbet
topped with a stem cherry and chocolate sprinkles
Swilling in language,
all floating in bubbly cherry phosphate
the bloated imagination
is urged to open still wider
and shovel it in,
and served with a twist of pretzel.”
In this world “Creamy Vanilla and
Smooth Swiss Chocolate ice creams”
can be “blended with chopped pineapple,
dark fudge sauce, ripe bananas, whipped topping,
cookies, roasted nutmeats and nippy chopped cherries.”
the Unconscious, that old hog,
being in charge here of the
At about the moment my tastebuds
receive a last tickle of Gingersnap
and begin to respond to
Orange Fudge, I look at you
who have bought my ice cream cones for twenty years,
Moving another new ice to the mouth
we needn’t remember
and look away
it is always the same mouth
that melts it.
My mind assembles a ribald tower
of sherbet dips, all on one cone,
Apricot, Apple, Tangerine, Peach, Prune, Lime,
and then it topples.
You are steadier than I.
You order one dip always,
or, in a dish, two dips of the same flavor.
In this hysterical brilliance of neon
Come on, consumers,
we’ve got to keep scooping
it is twelve or fifteen of us
to thirty ice creams.
so that the creams shall not rise
like cold lava out of their bins,
numbing our feet, our knees,
freezing our chests, our chins, our eyes,
Open the door, quick,
and let in two handholding adolescents.
Coping with all those glands
makes them good and hungry.
so that, flying out of their cannisters,
the chopped nuts
shall not top off our Technicolor grave
with their oily ashes.
Listen! All around us toothsome cones
are suffering demolition
down to the last, nipple-like tip.
How do we know where to stop?
Perhaps the glasses and dishes
are moulded of candy, and the counters and windows…
Over your half-eaten serving of Italian Delight,
why are you looking at me
the way you are looking at me?
because it has no pure products
because the Pacific Ocean sweeps along the coastline
because the water of the ocean is cold
and because land is better than ocean
because I say we rather than they
because I live in California
I have eaten fresh artichokes
and jacaranda bloom in April and May
because my senses have caught up with my body
my breath with the air it swallows
my hunger with my mouth
because I walk barefoot in my house
because I have nursed my son at my breast
because he is a strong American boy
because I have seen his eyes redden when he is asked who he is
because he answers I don’t know
because to have a son is to have a country
because my son will bury me here
because countries are in our blood and we bleed them
because it is late and too late to change my mind
because it is time.
To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.
I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.
Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.
Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,
Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,
Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.
After the fire, where next to turn?
Not the old words, aged with bitterness
or despair. Not habitual angers and griefs.
Not just a reflection of anyone’s new ideas.
But what’s right here: wind rising
through a tower of cottonwood.
Cicadas motoring their 17 year song.
Golden moon half revealed by
the silver of the passing cloud.
Good things, bad things happen.
News dissolves our vision of the world.
Not say what’s lost doesn’t make us ache
or strip our days of reds so vibrant
we forget what we were thinking.
But whatever is lost also brings us to this window
composed of the lush darkness, the rush
of wind or rain through the leaves,
the sudden chill dissolving the hot
anger or anguish, the pain of the questions that,
left unanswered, might divide us.
The music of the old house outlives the house.
We will make new murals out of the ruins,
mosaics from all that’s broken, stone soup
at the center of our next feast.
Nothing in this world vanishes.
Even ghosts, loved enough, turn into angels.
The dark shows us what calls
not at the edge of what we sense
but from the center of where we live.
Nothing can take away the power of the real.
It is easily forgotten, year to
year, exactly where the plot is,
though the place is entirely familiar--
a willow tree by a curving roadway
sweeping black asphalt with tender leaves;
damp grass strewn with flower boxes,
canvas chairs, darkskinned old ladies
circling in draped black crepe family stones,
fingers cramped red at the knuckles, discolored
nails, fresh soil for new plants, old rosaries;
such fingers kneading the damp earth gently down
on new roots, black humus caught in grey hair
brushed back, and the single waterfaucet,
birdlike upon its grey pipe stem,
a stream opening at its foot.
We know the stories that are told,
by starts and stops, by bent men at strange joy
regarding the precise enactments of their own
gesturing. And among the women there will be
a naming of families, a counting off, an ordering.
The morning may be brilliant; the season
is one of brilliances—sunlight through
the fountained willow behind us, its splayed
shadow spreading westward, our shadows westward,
irregular across damp grass, the close-set stones.
It may be that since our walk there is faltering,
moving in careful steps around snow-on-the-mountain,
bluebells and zebragrass toward that place
between the willow and the waterfaucet, the way
is lost, that we have no practiced step there,
and walking, our own sway and balance, fails us.
When you were pregnant with Israel, Lord
- did your ankles swell?
- did your fingers tingle and droop?
Did you spend your time waiting, marking time,
and doing infinite chores?
After you announced the birth of the nation
knowing it would be long, three generations long,
till the birth of the people on its land -
After you announced the birth, Lord -
did you sit counting the days and the years?
Did you plan on how you would raise Ephraim, your darling child?
how you would call him from Egypt,
draw him with cords of love?
Did you count the days
till you could teach him to walk?
till you could bend down and feed him each morsel?
When you carried Israel in your womb, O Lord,
did you think how you would nurture forever.
how you would carry him till old-age?
Did you plan every moment of his upbringing, dreaming of the perfect child?
Or were you very busy, Lord,
setting up laws,