Thursday, February 16, 2017

1974

A winter sky darkens above Belchertown;
Regulars gather at Charlie's Bar & Grill.
"I Fall To Pieces" plays on the old jukebox
Beside the grudge-handled cigarette machine.

Regulars gather at Charlie's Bar & Grill:
There's a faint smell of sawdust and spent dreams.
Beside the grudge-handled cigarette machine,
A grit-voiced redhead staggers from cheap gin.

There's a faint smell of sawdust and spent dreams:
Five or six local boys get high out back.
A grit-voiced redhead staggers from cheap gin:
-- Who's gonna buy the lady another drink?

Five or six local boys get high out back:
Money is scarce and jobs are hard to come by.
-- Who's gonna buy the lady another drink?
-- Larry, that's Butch's kid, his wife just left him ...

Money is scarce and jobs are hard to come by:
"I Fall To Pieces" plays on the old jukebox.
-- Larry, that's Butch's kid, his wife just left him ...
A winter sky darkens above Belchertown.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blessed Space

A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene.
Andrew Sullivan at nymag.com, February 10, 2017


In this blessed space,
the narrow brick-paved lane
behind First Unitarian,
I walk with you.

In this blessed space,
a table for two at the Cool Blues Café,
I sit with you, and we laugh.

In this blessed space,
where squirrels scamper
under a blossom-birthing sun
toward leaves of preternatural green,
I sing to you in my old ham voice
that cracks on the high notes.

In this blessed space,
a welcoming room
of light and art and books and music,
you are the host,
I am the guest,
we listen to each other's lives.

In this blessed space,
where saints and angels repair
the havoc of demagogues
by keeping holy silence,
I pray with you, I pray for you,
the waters of gratitude
bulging above the heart-brim.

In this blessed space,
what matters to us is each other.

What matters to me
is you.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sonnet 1

Amid stacked paperbacks, cold coffee-mugs,
on a snowbound Thursday morning, I recite
the sun-soaked prayer of your six-petalled name
to kitchen furniture, to plaster saints.

In tepid light I sit, graybearded bookworm
wishing your wine-bright voice would bring new life
to my hermetic heart. I listen for
your laughter, raucous liturgy of Spring!

The calendar approaches Lent, black badge
of ashes on pale foreheads, a starched priest
intoning thou art dust to sober bones ...

but you, my caustic rose, my rush of rain,
unwinter me, frolic my sluggish blood
with mud-tongued songs and stumblefooted dances!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Light

Six in the morning. February. Coffee.
I stand at the cold porch door and see, outside,
The brooding sapphire of the foredawn sky
Pregnant with deep blue light that pales and shines
Toward the horizon, where the tops of trees
Like scriptures in an inscrutable alphabet
Imprint themselves on the margin of the day.

Stones in the neighbouring graveyard
Begin to whiten and become distinct;
Slow traffic percolates through nearby streets:
A comfortable suburb shakes off sleep
As sparrows sing crisp matins in the chill.

There is a splendour in these muted hours
Before the sun blares and commuters rush,
Before the world grows noisy and impatient,
Before St. Agnes' bells ring Angelus.

Yesterday marked the first day in a week
I did not see your face or hear your voice,
But I’ll catch up with you this afternoon --
And, mimicking the early morning sky,
My heart begins to pool and swell with light.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Memory

Old age intones
Akhmatova's Russian
in a Cambridge café.

A navy-blue beret
protects his bald pale head.

Through thin-rimmed glasses
he looks back through time and space
to Anna's slender willow
spreading her translucent fan.

I don't understand
these fluent Slavic words,
unfaltering and rich
as anything by Dylan Thomas.

He continues to recite.

He can't remember breakfast,
but he remembers this.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mishpucha

משפחה


One evening, in the Cool Blues Café,
two years into our friendship,
you tell me that I am part
of your mishpucha,
your family.

The word on your lips
is fresh and new to me,
Catholic boy from Eastie
(a neighbourhood without a synagogue).

We walk from the café
down Poplar Street.
I try the word in my own voice:
you commend my pronunciation!

But I cherish the way it sounds
in your voice: mishpucha.
It is warmth and welcome,
home and haven.

Please, please let me know:
how can I bless you
as you have just blessed me?

Your Voice

There is poetry in the way you say poetry, and mysticism behind your casual goddamn. You alchemize rock salt to milk and honey, and puncture the balloons of the politicians' names. I've never heard you say smithereens but I imagine the fragrance of magnolia and a cool spring breeze. You transfigure trash barrel till it shines like down-east sunrise. You turn January as warm as the days of lemonade. When you say raison d'être, the circumflex shines like Venus in the sky. There is sustenance and savour in your bread, your butter, your coffee, your cinnamon.

We're buddies, you say, and suddenly the world is vested in sunlight. You mention shipments from the warehouse, and my heart does cartwheels. When you blurt don't be silly, something in me breaks out the party hats. You curse those parking meters, and I thunder bravissima! You utter laptop, and Buddha smiles, fat and serene. Alighieri and Rossetti (delighted duo of Dantes!) leap from the bookshelf if you deem some small thing lovely.

Cathedral in which I pray, shelter against the storm, haven and harbour, your voice.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prayer

A chilly January night.
Fingering a wooden rosary,
I sit on the third-floor balcony
In a darkness here and there
Dotted and streaked with light.
I'm dressed in winter pajamas.
No one save Heaven can see me
As I look up at the Hunter's belt,
Down at asphalt and grass.
The light traffic of Route 60
Hums within sight and hearing
Just past the hundred-yard path
In front of my apartment building.

It's thirty, thirty-five degrees.
I wrap this cold around me
And my sluggish senses waken.
I drink darkness like water
And listen for whispers of mercy
In the endless star-sparked sky.