Friday, September 29, 2017


Drowsy bees, loathe to sting,
Buzz querulous inquiry as I pass
Grass gods cease and then resume
Interminable wars against fate
A quiet door swings shut
A small hand moves a candle
From one window to another.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Despite my strict instructions that I was not to be admitted
The housekeeper let me in through the kitchen door,
The butler fed me the remains of his own dinner
And the chambermaid loaned me her bed and her savings.
Every morning the gardener's cat would bring flowers
Or, if it was Thursday, some apricots or cowcumbers.
Only I was hostile, looking daggers when we passed.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


You are on a road but at every point
Simultaneously. You are singing
Beneath a clear sky while sheltering
Under insufficient trees from sleety rain
You are being robbed. You have become
A robber, the newest member of the band
And their aged captain as well. You are eating
At dozens of inns, at farmhouses, in fields.
You’re hungry and the next meal
Is days away. Your dreams are all happening
Right now and vagrants have set up shelters
In their bright alleys and ruined courts.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


In the beginning, it’s about power;
You say Space; it’s off in every direction
Booming and exuberant
Set on its joyous unmaking
On the way back
Unless you send Time
To hiss and whisper and ribbon out
Making Space hurtle past itself.

Monday, September 25, 2017


The poet Mikael Anshe Muller
Was invented ten minutes ago;
He immediately set to work
On his memoirs. The agency
Sent round a muse. She was
A bit rusty, having last worked
In 1898 as staffage in paintings
By John Atkinson Grimshaw.
She's in at least seventy pictures
A woman in a long dark dress
Holding an umbrella and usually seen
From the rear or in three quarter view.
In those paintings it's always sunset
Or twilight or full night. Shoplights
Make the wet street glimmer.
As staffage she knows her place --
Vital but secondary. She pauses
Thinking her own thoughts. Dark masts
Rise in the background. Anshe Muller,
If he'll listen, will know what wares
The night shops sell, what ports
The night ships have called home.

Friday, September 22, 2017


My mother could never resist treating waiters
And checkout clerks and deliverymen
As if they were people. How embarrassed I was
When she asked the waiter with an accent
What town had seen his birth, how long
He'd been here, did he like being a waiter.
He had such a nice voice! Did he sing?
By the end of the meal, the waiter -- his name
Was Pyan Soo -- was showing her pictures
And inviting us to the kitchen to meet his brother.

Because she liked their looks, my mother
Bought herbs from a Sicilian market.
An old man stopped her as she left,
Acting out the best ways to cook with them.

When my mother was in the hospital
For the minor procedure from which she died
She struck up a conversation with a nurse
Who had many problems. My mother
Promised to think them over.

(If I asked it of them, pronouns would do more work
But I enjoy the words "my mother.")

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Abraham Lincoln, said my father, knew of a tonic
That could make you a new man, with enough left over
To make a little yellow dog. The first part is only sense;
Who does not make a new man each time he wakes
Choosing among those pieces of him that lie to hand?
This memory but not that one; this vice but
Not – never again! – that virtue too dearly bought.
From suchlike things I have conjured myself
At least ten thousand times, without a tonic.
What concerns me now is that yellow dog
Making itself impudently of the parts left over
Bad enough when he barks at me when we pass,
I on my way to work and he off to chase sticks and cats
And other dogs, but worse- far, far worse! –
Those days he grins at me or offers a sympathetic paw.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Once in a while someone tries
To tell Coleman Hawkins that
He died in 1969. It never takes.
Listen. A few notes drift a bit
Past the minor key they started in
When he played them at Kelly’s
But that’s about it. Somewhere
It is always 1946. The war is over
And the cloud of cigarette smoke
Hanging over the music
Won’t do you a lick of harm.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Suspended in midleap you look
To be forty or so. Not old, no;
But not all that young  either.
I like your beaky nose; some day
You may become Margaret Dumont
Eternally perplexed by Groucho Marx
But adoring him all the same. He, too,
Is puzzled that he loves someone
Who will never eunderstand his jokes.

But that will come later. For now,
The problem is that you, along
With three other women in ballet skirts
Jumped in the air just as Andre Kertesz
Snapped a picture. There you hang.
Even Death can't draw you down
Or move one finger of your flat hand.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Jane Welsh Carlyle had a presentiment
Of her death. Faceless men, she dreamed
Carried a heavy coffin into her room
And rested it before her on the ground.
It was fine thing, made of close-grained wood,
Lined with soft purple velvet. She said
“Are you sure? I do not think Mr. Carlyle
Would spend quite so much money.
Pine is a very decent wood and pine needles
Are well enough for a corpse’s rest.”

Three days later, she had another dream
The same men returned but one of them
Had acquired a face, or borrowed one,
So that he could look chagrined.
“You were right. The coffin was meant
For quite a different Mrs. Carlyle.
If it is any comfort the three monkeys
We were supposed to bring to you
Have brought her no end of trouble.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017


The most important
Poet to emerge
In France since
World War II
Is being pursued
Through the streets.
The least important
Poets to emerge
In France since
World War II
Nod to each other;
Today they’ve found
To write about.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


One of the perks of being God
Is existing while not existing
Ayin, who does not exist,
Prays to both, but not
At the same time.
Her shadow
Has holes in it
For which it blames
Moths who are sworn
Servants of the locust's god.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Hedge priest's unhappy that hedge witch
Has moved into his shrub but admits
Hedge whore might be worse. Or,
He confides to hedge player over
His hedge beer, very much better.

Monday, September 11, 2017


The Unmoved Mover knows who
Spray-painted it with graffiti.
It has no desires. Still
It wouldn't mind if someone
Scrubbed it clean again.

Friday, September 8, 2017


She sees in the dark so Baba Yaga
Carries her mouse-bone lantern solely
In order for others to see her.
The storm, rapidly approaching,
Has left her the only god
Walking along the beach tonight.
If you must pray, be careful.

Monday, September 4, 2017


One thing that surprised my father’s ghost
When he rented rooms in Kamianka Strumilowa
Was to find  The Shadow as a fellow boarder.
Every morning, he’d see The Shadow leave
For his job of knowing what evil lurked
In the hearts of men. (This was before
The Shadow fought crime; in those days
He contented himself with knowing.)
Quite late at night, my father
Might glimpse him coming home to eat
Small servings of unappealing leftovers.
Some weeks there was a shortage of evil
And The Shadow’s rent would be late.
Others, there was so much evil that my father
Would be sent off with a piece of chalk
To mark evil for The Shadow to know
Once he had a few spare minutes again.

Friday, September 1, 2017


My grandfather Max grew up on a farm
With ten brothers and sisters and
A very great number of ducks. This
Was in the uncertain lands, then
Part of Austria's Poland but now
Ukrainian. A tossed coin sent him
To America where, he became a tailor
And a cutter, turning huge bolts of cloth
Into coats. His children played
With giant spools. Some weeks
The cutters never went home but slept
On the giant tables or under them.
For some years he owned a factory
On West 39th Street in Manhattan.
Growing up in Poland
He’d helped his father make wine
In Brooklyn he had a garden
And grew plums, peaches, and apricots
But his grapes refused to make wine
Turning always into vinegar.
He called each of his children
By the first word they tried to say. Sadie
Was Gninganoy; Doris was Napougie;
My father was Sock. That leaves six
Whose true names I don't know.
In summer, he and his landtsmen
Might eat cantelopes and then
Drink schnapps from the hollowed halfs.
His children called him Poppa.
His wife Esther called him Mortrazik
I don't know what he called her.