You grieve as if this shadow
has no sound yet
though once your face is covered
you let more darkness out
and what you hear
stays, clots the way one hand
clings to this dirt made black
by the other, left behind
to hide in the scent from rivers
that move again, keeps you company
years after as the cry
for water and already this crater
gouged from your mouth
stone by stone, caving in
and your lips boiling over.
You are pulled and the same darkness
lifts your arm around these stars
spreads out door to door
knocks so your fist can smell
from blood become your heart again
dragged ahead as if you belong
near distances, end to end
though this cemetery
has forgotten its dead
holds only the invisible hillsides
soaking in stone and narrow alleyways
passed along till they close
and what will be your tears
waits as lips, as the sky brought back
crumbling with not a light left on.
Even these laces, breathless
falling to the floor without you
and the wait for calm –they cope
by helping you undress
used to shoes that weigh too much
are lowered forever, caressed
and still you talk non-stop
dangle your bare feet
half overboard, half
the way these enormous clothes
lose hold, break apart, then nothing
to heap one on top the other.
Branching out and this hillside
bit by bit unraveling
the way your shadow keeps to itself
just by darkening, fed the dirt
you once could see through
as if nothing was there to hum
then swallow some old love song
that came into the world
facing the ground still trying
to leave you and night after night
you listen for these smaller
then smaller stones eating alone
as the cry forever struggling
from its harsh stranglehold
to keep up, side by side and stay.
At the end this sand coming by
covers you with soft flowers
that long ago dried as footsteps
still treading inside some shallow grave
smothered as afterward and dust
–you loved her the way the Earth
keeps warm and between two suns
place to place what’s left
you walk without looking down
though your arms are closing
have grown together a single fingertip
touching these shells and pebbles.
The leaves are waiting
As I do
Like old friends with whom
I do not need conversation
The hands of the Universe
Like a warm loaf of bread
We wait quietly
-- Tom Rubenoff
bonsai represents “tree”
but also is itself a tree
bent in the direction the wind, even if
imaginary, is blowing
scholar’s stone on the desk
shapes a terrain of cracks and slopes,
the man who was my father
sits with his damaged hands
in his lap, searching
for a word
but still might make
a small joke
sarcastic and affectionate
although I don’t
he showed me
it must have been
-- Miriam Sagan
method of composition
older than we’d thought—
to project the image
trace the lily
or madonna’s face,
also small maple leaves
into the pond
no easier to cross
than it ever was
on these lovely
-- Miriam Sagan
moon in the serene sky of autumn
binge and purge
as it turns
over my restless sleep
in the oddly slanted apartment
off Prospect Avenue
you could drop a marble
and have it roll the length
past the old-fashioned
and a bookshelf holding
Poetics of Space
in its New England guise
towards the river
leaves swept back and forth
by an unhousewifely
the past cluttered with
its tiger lilies
its salt ponds
a glass of
the neighbor keeps bees
between triple deckers
sustained on thistle
and potted fuchsia, geranium, basil
gone to white flower
we both wonder
how much longer
this can go on
a habit of survival,
the neighbor steals--collects-- the honey
and shares it
golden in a glass jar
famous poets die
along with the ones
who actually were our friends
you could drop
and see it roll
of what is
-- Miriam Sagan
my eyes full of salt
where is the mirror that remembers?
there is no ointment
to salve time
once you loved me
I'm sure of it
you love me still
I'm sure of that also
if the stars chart a course
or you chart a course by the stars
open your hand
no palm reader knows braille
what I saw but didn't understand
what I didn't see
and everything hidden
that no dove or raven found in me.
-- Miriam Sagan
Harold, I'm sorry to call you at three in the morning
but you're older than I am and you may have less time
to relish a word you may not have heard of.
It's "rejectamenta," and I stumbled upon it
early this morning when I couldn't sleep.
I wish I had found rejectamenta years ago.
It means exactly what you might think:
"matter rejected as useless or worthless."
Imagine how useful that word would have been
in our younger days as a weapon of choice.
I would have shouted it often when leaving a job
or leaving a nice woman who thought we should marry.
I would have extended my arm like Adolph and shouted
"Rejectamenta!" with the roar of "Sieg Heil!"
For the remainder of my life I will shout it when nettled.
I will shout it at the waiter in that Polish restaurant
the next time he plops pickled pigs feet
in front of me obviously short on gel.
I loathe those feet but the gel is marvelous.
We may be aging, Harold, but we have a word now
we can whip out of our quivers whenever we're miffed.
Perhaps the embalmer will tattoo it on my forehead
if my wife isn't looking, assuming she survives.
Carry on, Harold. The finish line is just ahead.
After a day in the fields
plowing and sowing,
the old monks see
sundown is near so
they put away tools,
clean up for supper.
It's soup and bread
torn from a loaf,
chunks of good cheese,
a rainbow of bright
fruit from the orchard,
coffee as black as tar.
There are 20 monks left,
slow and ailing, a drop
from a hundred or so
a few decades ago.
The harvest is small,
their lives still simple.
They work in the fields
and pray in the chapel.
But birds in the air
sometimes hear prayer
rise from the fields
and soar past them.
a cemetery with
raised stone graves
gleaming white or
painted blue to mark
the graves of the especially holy
and there also
the handful of
Jewish defenders who
prevailed in 1948 against
so they say
20 or 30,000 enemies
choosing to stay and fight
over evacuation by
a couple of hundred white stone
steps that zigzag their way up
the high bank of grey scree
from the cemetery
more hundreds of stairs
Intersect the Old City bottom to top
like a zipper
not unusual to see
a large pistol
in a man’s back pocket
the narrow streets traverse
to and fro across the gentle
mountainside like the belt
of a robe
crowded with artists’
tiny galleries, tiny souvenir
shops and tiny restaurants
tzitzit hang from beneath
the white shirts of the Orthodox
who walk purposefully
in black suits and
under the hot sun
small whitish stone buildings
rebuilt after each war
with roofs that are flat
but always adorned
with a solar water heater and
during the Lebanon war
because of rockets
has no hotel
for the Birthright kids
who come anyway to get
falafel and Kabbalah
beyond the bullet-riddled
old British police station
and the Davidka weapon
rises the mountain crown
the ruins of the Crusaders
citadel and an unnamed
from the top
You can see
the Sea of Galilee
and at your feet
with its pretty houses,
business district and
the way we came
roofs of the Old City
are like several hundred steps
that lead down a mountain
to a cemetery
-- Tom Rubenoff
The water spills,
she wrings the towel and softens it with soap.
Three years ago
Ethiopia dried to a memory of sand.
She remembers a sky pale as bone
a long day’s walk and an empty pail.
she has carried her love,
a continent of grief tendered to her fingertips,
its grip of pumiced stone.
Loss, she says, is understood,
it resides familiar as your mother’s long arms,
that infant born bloody and still.
Now she whispers stories of a country filled with rain,
of green beginnings, moss thick as regret.
She rinses the length of her back,
the stairway of her spine,
the room is full of women resurrected,
waiting out the slow and gentle flood.
In the far corner the ghost of her sister dances,
her mother raises her hands to each bright drop.
As the puddle beneath them grows
the dancers bare their ankles to the slow growing pool,
embroidered hems sodden with leaves,
soaked with the memory of rain.
While outside the clustered roots of fir trees
search for a long forgotten river,
and the thirsty music calls the water home.
-- Lisa McIvor
We have sorted through cupboards,
filled boxes with sweaters still pungent with mothballs
winter coats redolent with musty wool and lavender.
Discarded the cookie tins silted with crumbs,
bottles murky with the last bit of hopeful syrup,
broken teacups, loose buttons,
errant lengths of string, mildewed books
the yellowed pages of twenty year old grocery lists.
Packed plates, the mismatched silverware,
sheets and pillowcases folded into envelopes of linen.
In the new wideness
the walls seem white as morning, And I think
as I move the last crate to its leaving place
So this is breathing, is it—
this quick intake of air,
and how the space between each heartbeat
is the small quiet of an empty room. Now begins
the slow two step towards winter,
already ice softly patterns the glass,
birds are dark crumbs in the frosted yard.
Today is a certain color, a sweet ribbon of gold
along the treeline, a last reprieve of leaves.
On the small rug of burgundy and green there
are your shoes, twin boats of a reclusive shade of red,
the shade of overripe berries or dusky wine,
resting their emptiness
against each other by the door.
-- Lisa McIvor
The red vinyl
makes a narrow bed
between the steering wheel
and plastic bags tied with twine--
this is all she has left of her life.
Trying to sleep
She curls like a child
to the bulk of a mother’s lap,
imagines the faint musk of roses
in the moist and sealed air.
Easing her breath
to a small cave of warmth
she drifts for a moment,
dreams the streetlamp
is a round eye keeping watch, an owl-like gaze,
that the moon is somehow a gift
and just this small.
She has chosen this leafless shelter
and the branches glitter with frost, a naked forest.
It is a week before Christmas.
She dreams of other winters,
when ice was the same as fire, the first time
the curving of his fist and the way his fingers
traced the hollow of her throat
became the same gesture,
interchangeable as apology
-- Lisa McIvor
What seems a window, an opening to rain,
allows the world to look in—and I,
a naked visitor, huddle
windswept in the bright august light,
ask for a tablecloth, a froth of lace to cover
an inch of pale belly, a bashful crease of thigh.
I have forgotten
to glimpse the mercy of the sky,
or the way
the gentleness of clouds move
to the shape of a gown, a shawl.
And the birds themselves—
How they hover on the slightest breeze
and do not fear
the murmured lattice of their own wings
or the feathered wonder of their skin.
-- Lisa McIvor
It was my fault
I fell in love that August afternoon.
The storm bullied through the bathroom window,
scattering bits of glass like glitter on the floor.
I befriended the wind, looked into his eyes
the color of stones, granite wet from rain,
his rough hands twisting my curls in a wild halo.
I believed the roaring of his voice meant love,
the way his kiss left me gasping.
We whispered in weird collusion,
laughed at the thought of iridescent bubbles
bouncing off the ceiling.
Who is frightened of a hurricane, I asked,
buoyant with trust--
if held in its very center-- if I believe
its very heart is a child?
Dolphin-like we wrestled until
the white porcelain tub overflowed
and we spilled onto the unromantic linoleum,
two unearthly beings: my beloved
made of gray filament and stars,
a man-cloud wearing feathers from jostled birds,
and I, crazy haired from passion, mascara smeared,
a bathmat slung like a sarong around my hips.
We stumbled from our flood to find the hallway
had become a narrow path edged with trees,
branches sodden with moss and memory,
an underwater world, a verdant blooming,
flowers the color of fish.
Fingers entwined, we knew each step forward
no matter how careful or quiet
led farther from the garden,
that the world is a shallow cup and breakable.
How the ocean, as fragile as the heart,
holds only so much salt.
In the sudden forest of cinnamon air and emerald petals,
a hundred butterflies and iridescent beetles
thirsty from the downpour,
nestled to dryness,
gave up their brief lives to the palm of our hands,
our terrible and empathetic hunger.
We chewed each one carefully,
each golden color and tiny bone
brittle against our teeth
as though we were tasting flight,
the way sweetness and freedom
and love were words
made up of the most fragile and edible skeletons,
the way the tiniest bodies
gave themselves away.
-- Lisa McIvor
You had to have a Schwinn
to lead this pack of boys
riding bikes full speed
baking under the Chicago sun
laughing after senior year
heading to the local park
to play a game of ball
or lob a cane pole
in the park lagoon
with stinkbait on the hook
to catch a bullhead,
cousin of the catfish,
small but just as tough.
Riding Schwinns was High Mass
in the summer after high school
before everyone would join the Army
or wait to be drafted.
Maybe one or two of us
had sober fathers working
and we would go to college.
I was one of those.
Going to college was something
I was told I'd do from third grade on.
So do the homework, my father said,
or he'd wash up and visit the nuns.
Korea ended not too long before.
Two guys ahead of us
would never ride a Schwinn again
or go to college on the GI Bill.
One guy did come back.
For years he walked in circles
around his family's back yard
smoking real Pall Malls,
unimpaired by filters, very long.
Butch was shell-shocked,
We'd have to pray for him.
They didn't call it PTSD back then.
Ebenezer woke to find
rats in his basement
so he called PETA
to take them away
and the lady hung up
so Ebenezer prayed
and the doorbell rang
and there stood a preacher.
He waved a Bible,
yelled and screamed
"All you must do is believe
and you will be saved!"
and Ebenezer replied,
"I do believe but
what about the rats?"
The preacher smiled,
turned to leave and
tripped on the stairs.
He never moved,
his head a Vesuvius
lofting a spume of blood.
Ebenezer closed the door
and said to no one, "I believe
the Samaritan can handle it."
He paints hummingbirds not
for people to praise them,
ogle and grovel and buy them.
He paints them because
the birds come fluttering
one after another
and won't go away unless
he paints them, every hue.
They line up like planes
at a busy airport, hovering,
waiting their turn to be put
on canvas, made immortal,
one bird at a time,
framed and hung on a wall.
After hanging each painting
he cleans his brushes and whistles
and waits for the next one to come
and hover in front of his eyes.
He prays the last one will perch
on his brush and stay.
President Sasha Obama was
Sworn in as I was out test driving
Hybrid electric/solar carplanes
They got 500 miles a charge and i
Only took two breaks traveling between
Portland Oregon and New York City
While I was flying, I thought of Shannon
An old crush from my college days, so i
Went on my Ivirtual and created a hologram
Of her; she looked like she was still 24, even though
She was 63, bright eyed, picket fence, suburban perfect
We had lunch at a restaurant in central park
100 stories above manhattan
Shannon told me she remembered the good old days
When she used to listen to Duran Duran cds
So I pulled out a cursor, pointed and Duran Duran
Appeared in the flesh, they played whatever songs she wanted
We had a 5 course meal, condensed into five capsules
Easy to swallow
Shannon looked youthful for someone
Heading towards retirement
The micro chip in my mind that held
The past was erased
I didn’t know of all the bad things that
Happened between us
Shannon was dressed in a black leather suit and could’ve
Been Catwoman’s twin
I borrowed my style from Captain Kirk
When Shannon complained about
I just pressed a few buttons on
My watch and it became sunny
We talked about how much he missed
And wished we could tell them
So I went on my phone
And called them
And we talked to them
As long as we wanted
Shannon’s smile even after 50 years
Never failed to leave me hypnotized
It was better than a scene from a
Steven King Novel
It was unthinkable once, to alter time or a moment
But now, you could