Wednesday, August 30, 2017


His small rooms were filled with souvenirs
So extensions were quickly slammed together
Once it was clear that the suitors' ghosts –
Sighted on an old-fashioned boat
With masts of bone and cobweb sails
Riding against the wind towards Phaecia --
Were coming to see the dying Telemachus.
He lived among us here, had children,
In the long years after Ithaca was forbidden him.
We assumed these lordly shades of men
Princes, warriors, priests and magicians
Came to gloat or to extract revenge long delayed
But they seemed to see the dying old man
As if he was still the half-orphan child
They'd  helped to raise, spending nights
Comforting him, telling him tall stories
Making little animals of cedarwood and cypress.
Their ship’s spiderspun sails billowing with winds
None of us on shore could feel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


One day a second corporal marched out of the fog
And fell in. So far as we could tell, he was identical
To the one we already had except, perhaps,
The scar under his left eye was a trifle shorter.
Also, he mostly spoke in a language none of us understood
He knew to obey the sergeant, could make a fire
From wet and rotten twigs and sod.
And remembered not to spit where the moon could see.
Schultz was afraid of him but Schultz was afraid
Of corporals in general so we didn’t wonder at it..

Monday, August 28, 2017


That Tonto spoke Yiddish was no surprise;
From listening with her youngest to episodes
Of The Lone Ranger my grandmother knew
That Tonto could do almost anything.
After she died, he’d clattered up
To offer her a ride on Scout. They chatted;
Tonto, it turned out, was an orphan too.
He'd never seen Lemberg but had heard
That its streets were wide and that
The second oldest fish in the world
Lived in the waters of the Poltowa.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


One slow Thursday the Unmoved Mover
Emanated an office which naturally
Soon filled with file cabinets, desks,
Cubicles, phones, shredders, agendas,
Interns and some things which are,
So far as can be told, people. Serving
The Unmoved is not easy. Aristotle
Decided it should spend eternity
Contemplating itself contemplating
Itself contemplating. Aristotle
Believed this would be great fun.
Efforts by the publicity department
Have not persuaded anyone
That Aristotle was correct.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


St. Crescentia's miracles
Are delicate, filagreed things
Covered with tiny bells,
Shards of seaglass,
Or, sometimes, feathers
From imaginary birds.
The one I know best
Includes a cage
Where old moonlight
Sits behind mouse-bone bars.
It was made in answer
To prayer not made
By a man I did not
Turn out to be.

Monday, August 21, 2017


Since she doesn't exist
The angel Ayin
Cannot answer prayers.
She listens, though,
To all who want
No one to hear.

Friday, August 18, 2017


The prefect's statue does not accept that he is clay
Nor that the state he served fell centuries ago.
He stares back into each face peering at him
In the display case where he keeps his office.
Some day the vandal who chipped his nose
With a stone idly tossed will surely return;
The prefect will arrest him in the name
Of the Empress Regnant Wu Zhao.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Henry VIII's dress armor
Is black, with golden details,
And filled with ghosts.
Thomas More looks
Through the eyeholes
Great Wolsey sits at ease
In the expanded belly.
Sometimes, the left hand
Slowly clenches; Cromwell
Is having a bad dream.
The six wives
Lodge in the codpiece
Except for Boleyn
Who sits in the helmet
Arguing with More.
Henry's soul huddles
In the left boot's tip
Wishing the others
Would quiet down
So a man could sleep.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


The music strikes up; dancers,
Already on stage are in motion.
They’re just a few at first but,
From the wings come more
And more again until the stage
Cannot hold another. No matter;
A scrim lifts, and there is space
For those coming from everywhere
Rappelling from the rafters, streaming
Down the aisles. The musicians
Put down their instruments to dance;
The music now plays itself. Last of all,
You rise, arms links with yours
And you’re dancing.
                         If this isn't Death
What can it be?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Grown old, Mr. Hyde finds he misses
Dr. Jekyll. He is not a chemist –
That was Jekyll – but he has the notes
From the original experiments
And signs up for some courses. His wife
(Hyde gave up murdering women years ago
On the advice of his cardiologist) thinks
Jekyll is unlikely to return from wherever
In Hyde he’s been larricking about. Still …
She prepares the guest bedroom
And buys porridge; Hyde hates porridge
But says Jekyll will want it at breakfast.

Monday, August 14, 2017


Almost featureless, the ghost
Stands by a wall. The rain
Makes people hurry by.
I furtively put in his hand
The memory of a dime
One of the old ones, silver,
With Mercury's head on it
He curls his fingers around it,
Nods and is gone.

Friday, August 11, 2017


If this was 1940
I might take a subway --
One of the new
IND lines --
And walk a block south
24 West 40th Street.
There, I'd ask "Do you have
The Goddess of Time?"
"Certainly," the jeweler would say
"That"ll be one dollar down
And $2.87 a month
For the next ten months."
My grandfather, a watchmaker,
Might have cautioned me
That any watch called
The Goddess of Time
Was no better than it should be
And was not to be trusted.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Chief Mullica, licensed detective,
Can be found, when he chooses,
At 577-S, The
Orpheum Building,
Jersey City, where it is always
October 1940. He is willing to train,
To investigate, to fingerprint,
To shadow and to solve
Cases which have baffled
More ordinary detectives.
That he works out of a building
Torn down 60 years ago
Is not a problem. 
For $15 a day and expenses,
He’ll  travel almost anywhere.
Particulars, say his ad, are free.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


So tightly they grip hands!
How fast they circle round!
The goose, in vain, honks
Alarmed that their feet
Have left the ground.

Monday, August 7, 2017


Alif, who can't be seen,
Has an apprentice --
The angel Ayin --
Who doesn't exist
But hopes to.
Homeless, she sleeps
In alleys, wrapped
In a torn shadow.

Friday, August 4, 2017


My grandfather Joe could tell why a watch had stopped
By winding it, holding it to his ear and then tapping it --
Three precise taps. After this, the diagnosis:
A bit of grit in a cog wheel or a broken spring
Or a simple desire for attention. He'd ask for a tool --
A needle, say, or a butter-knife or a drop of oil --
Which always proved to be the right one. If people
Had been watches, he and his older daughter
Would've gotten along quite splendidly.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


In my despair I called on Xanthos
Which is odd. What use to me
Zephyr's child, a yellow horse
Who'd wept for Patroclus
And raged at Achilles? Still,
One goes where one must.
An immortal horse, half wind;
There might be worse company
For the cold journey I'll someday take.
Lions and bears, a pig and a horse;
Any number of cats, stray virgins
And glum saints. Really, we should get
Some banners and perhaps
A small escort of trumpets and drums.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


I could hear God, jesting with the Lvovner
As I approached, but, catching sight of me,
He fell silent. Really, God? Does my unbelief
Require this pretense that You don't exist?