Wednesday, September 30, 2015



His back straight
The young soldier
Hears every word
Of the pretty actress.


Tomorrow, my father will be born
As he is each year on that day
(Somewhere, it is always 1926.)
Max, his father, will greet him
"Hokay-hey," he'll say (my dad
Will always remember hokay-hey --
The borderland where joy
Trysts with resignation )
"That makes nine of you;
We'll borrow a bat, some mitts,
And chellenge the Dodgers."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


I shared rooms then with the Holy Ghost
Who had long since left Heaven
Hoping to be missed, to be mourned.
He paid his rent, didn't leave dishes in the sink,
Seldom spoke. Most days he spent listening
For the jangle of blessed boots and spurs
That troops of mounted angels might make
Riding earthwards in desperate haste.

Monday, September 28, 2015


As long as I have known him the elephant
Has been making his slow way across the picture
Unaware he is a rubbing my mother gave me
After she and my father visited
It may be that my granddaughter, or hers,
Will be there when he reaches the frame's edge.
Chose well where you hang him; put him near
Some scene whose people will welcome
Stray elephants without undo fuss.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Summoning his powers, the poet Yeats
Determined to make a lady think
Of a red rose inexhaustibly burning.
Unfortunately, the spirits involved
Seem to have been careless; she reported
A day filled with thoughts about a frog.
Presumably some frog fancier
Was driven half-mad, plagued as he was
With visions of a rose some lunatic
Had wantonly set on fire.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


P. Nigidius Figulus, says Cicero,
Was diffident about his ability
To sometimes perform miracles.
He wondered if words
Came before things, so that
Gods shuddered into being
Because the word "gods"
Needed to mean something.
(If stag beetles have gods
They may include Nigidius
Who gave them their Latin name.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Max, so far as I know,
Never heard Bessie Smith
Sing “Lonesome Desert Blues”
Busy as he was
With nine children
And making preparations
To be my grandfather;
Still, at times, he may
Have sung a few bars.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Henry Angelo’s ghost came by when I slept
And, to keep his hand in, taught me fencing
In a dream. My father and his father too
Flew when they dreamt. My mother’s relatives
Who, like Stonehenge’s pillars,  are uncountable
Include a rabbi who obeyed the law of gravity
When he remembered.

                                       I cannot fly, awake
Or dreaming. "Those without flight," said Angelo,
"Must learn to defend themselves." The lessons
Only work in my dreams. There, I use a rapier well
And, less deftly, a saber. Nights in Booble Alley
I use a katana with which I am competent only.

Friday, September 18, 2015


According to Boogie Woogie the Blues
Takes himself too seriously.
The Blues never rests; he wakes his clients up,
Hunts them down, bids them good morning,
Puts them to bed. When they climb out a window
They find the Blues holding the ladder.
At meals, the Blues makes food taste like dust
Simply because he can. Falling in love with the Blues
Is easy but, just when you are convinced that he,
At least, will never leave you he is gone
Leaving only Boogie Woogie and he
Doesn’t want to hear talk about his brother.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Piqued at being called meagre
And not very grave, my sins
Slapped on false beards
(Which they stroked incessantly)
And did a few halting pushups.
To feel better about themselves
They spent the next day at the beach
Kicking sand in my virtues’ faces.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Stubbornness keeps the stone silent
If it wanted, it could sing madrigals.
Let the desire exist for an instant
And the cold heart bursts into flame.
Late nights, when they're off duty, my sins
Mutter over their muddy coffee
That if I'd only repent they could
Enjoy retirement, grow wings, move
To some gated Southern town.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Woked up this morning the Pope was at my door
Yes I woke up this morning Mister Pope was at my door
Said he don’t wanna see me round this place no more.

I got a demoiselle lives just the other side of town
Oh, I got a demoiselle lives across this here old town
Sometimes my demoiselle likes to fool around.

This wine is weak and I ain’t hardly drunk
This wine’s so weak that I ain’t hardly drunk
My demoiselle’s been foolin with a barefoot monk

Gonna sell all my land, go on a crusade
Gonna sell my land, gonna go on a long crusade
Cause my demoiselle’s just so doggone mean, babe.

Got a wife in Rheims and one in Italy
Got a wife in Rheims and one, maybe two, in Italy
What good are wives when my demoiselle don’t love me?

Put my new shoes on gonna walk to the Holy Land
Put these new shoes on gonna walk to the Holy Land
Probably leave my bones resting in the holy sand.

Tell the Saracens baby and then go tell the Jews
Tell the Saracens babe and go tell it to the Jews
A man can surely die of the crusaderin’ blues.

Monday, September 14, 2015


I have forgotten your name
But remember you were in love
With someone named Gus.
(Gus did not seem very lovable to me
But I suppose it is a matter of taste.)
You'd written a poem to him
Praising his moustache gingembre.
Memory has decreed that from you
I keep only your voice's echo
But must always recollect
That damned ginger mustache.

Friday, September 11, 2015


My mother's walls had grass paper on them
As no other house I've known.
Rubbings of bright colored temple girls
Wore high headdresses and smiles
That made the bearded man with the clarinet
Urge his companions to play louder
(You could see their music; it condensed
Into bobbing circles over their heads)
The temple girls approved and clacked
Little cymbals that looked like egg cups.
Each book on the shelves -- so many shelves! --
Waited for my father to passionately read them
Leaving them filled with bits of paper
Which  still await him . "See: Li Po's dog," says one
"The rabbi thinks he is real," says another.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Gogol's mother insisted that her son
Had invented the printing press,
The steam engine and the clarinet.
Amateur! Had you told my mother
She'd have said “Impressive! But,
You know, my son invented Gogol.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Before they were interns for the Imp of the Perverse
The three angels were not friends; (the Courts of Heaven
Are so vast that an angel set to count its inhabitants
Will never finish even though she has an abacus
Whose beads are as the sands of all the Earths.)
Nor had God willed that chance should unite them.
Still, thrown on their own they proved compatible
And roomed together, commuting each morning
From a boarding house in 1907 to an office
In early 2016. Blaufre had a dueling scar;
She did not like to be asked about it so Glaur
Made up stories about its origin claiming it came
From Blaufre’s time as a musketeer. “Her wings
Gave her away and she was dismissed, but not before
A drunken brawl in which she defeated four soldiers
And an enormous trained rat which spoke bad French.”
Zafriel would smile politely as Glaur’s stories soared
And swooped and got distracted by shiny objects
Waiting for the pause in which he could ask
“Has either of you noticed the Imp of the Perverse
Sometimes resembles God? It unsettles me.”

Monday, September 7, 2015


Since there are an infinite number of angels
Letting many of them go solved nothing;
There were still an infinite number left.
Nor was the problem of finding new work
For vaguely powerful spiritual beings
Skilled at delivering messages and praising
Easy to solve. St. Ursula, who had somehow
Survived the latest round of budget cuts
Along with all eleven thousand of her virgins
-- Each and every one of them a saint as well –
Set up internships. The Imp of the Perverse
Wound up with three angels shadowing him
Noting his methods, which made him nervous.
He found himself tempted to give good advice
To his clients, who had contracted for bad.
“We haven’t been good for you,” said Zafriel;
“Business is down since we came,” said Glaur
(Who had been a troll in a prior dispensation
But had been philosophical on finding himself
Winged and loudly singing Aramaic hymns in praise
Of a God in whom he did not fully believe).
“Yes, what do you need interns for?” said Blaufre
“You’ve managed forever on your own.
By far the wisest course would be to fire us.”
The Imp of the Perverse shook his head;
“Have you been paying no attention at all?”

Friday, September 4, 2015


By 1695, the duc de Saint-Simon writes,
Francois de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Paris,
Having lost the King’s favor, had became a lonely man.
He would spend long days with his mistress
(Whose name was even longer than his:
Paule Marguerite Francoise de Gondi,
Duchesse de Lesdiguieres; there was no room
In a coach for a third once the two of them
And their names had been helped inside and seated).
In the afternoon, they walk in his garden;
Behind them – too far to overhear what they say –
Two servants follow, with rakes, erasing
All traces of the archbishop and his duchesse.
It can not be a hard job; one man
And one rake should have sufficed.
But there are two, so that each of them
Has some company over the slow hours.
So; the Archbishop walks the gravelled paths
Arm in arm with the Duchesse; in the distance
Two liveried men who rise above their station
To pity their master, sotto voce. Behind them, can you see
Saint-Simon? Small, sharp-eyed, just turned twenty;
He it is who has invited me to witness the scene
So envision me somewhere behind him. He knows
That I am there, but etiquette forbids him to notice me
And I am shy of approaching a man, a duc no less,
Who is 347 years my senior. I now request
The pleasure of your company; come along.
There! the Archbishop has made the Duchesse smile.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Best to travel light
Your dream limps?
Borrow another's
Or steal; it will carry
Whoever mounts it.
For provender, shadows
Well packed and sealed
And a bushel of smoke
To trade to the natives.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


When I cannot write I grow cranky
So it was a relief when, towards
The FedEx driver brought me a large box
From the muse I hadn't seen for weeks.
It was mostly empty but God was in a corner.
I was nonplussed. I am not a religious poet
Despite the gods and saints and demons
Who populate my poems. Still, I do not court peril;
Muses are not to be ignored. God said nothing
But did not seem discontent.

                                                 In late August
The City empties. Baba Yaga was almost alone
Eating cherry pirogis in a
Third Avenue dairy restaurant
Which closed in 1964. She waved me over.
I ordered borscht, a thing I cannot eat
In any other place. "The Muse has sent me God
In a box," I told her. She nodded, nothing
Surprises Baba Yaga. "What sort of box?"
"Large. Cardboard. No foam peanuts. Just God
Sitting in a corner."
                                                "He doesn't look angry."
"Not him; you."
                             "More puzzled. Why would the Muse
Send me God in a box?"
                                                "So you would let Him out
Of course."
                         "My father saw God, you know."
"Yes, you've written about it, more than once."
"You read my blog?"
                                        "From time to time.
Your father did not put God in a box.
But you do. Roust Him out, is my advice.
You limp already, what more do you think He'll do to you?"
"Turn me upside down? Invite worship? Kill me?"
"Pfoo; he killed you when you were born.
And look how that’s turned out for you!
Go home, boy; be polite. Make some tea
I have business to attend but I'll stop by later
And see how the two of you are doing."