Poems

Sunny and Seventy-Eight      Across the Atlantic      Senhor en do Café de Lagos

She Looks       Me        Small        Not Coming This Way Again       I Write in Bars

My Little Book of Poetry       All Dogs Speak English        To Make A Living

A Souvenir      Turquoise       The Lighthouse at Cabo San Vincente      Dining Alone

Empty Seat On A Long Bench

 

 

SUNNY AND SEVENTY-EIGHT
(the weather in Manhattan on September 11th, 2001)

The sunshine glints in furtively upon my bed
But I’m asleep deep on the cocoonish couch.
If not peaceful, then at least becalmed, at ease
As Dreams, such wasteful, trifling, useless things
Perpetrate their cruelty in my slumbered head.
Will it ever be so sunny and seventy-eight again?

I watch all day the sun cross the window pane.
It has fed my plants its green food for now
And baked gray flecks on the black mud surround.
Shadows never intend but ultimately provide clouds
From which so much watering without a drop of rain.
Will it ever be so sunny and seventy-eight again?

Now a North breeze, slight and slim, has reached me here
To rustle cold the blinds shielding my tomb-mind.
Carrying faintness and depth and dark intent
To where I strain to place what synaptic fires compel.
I exhale, and exhale, and wish be gone, be wrong.
Will it ever be so sunny and seventy-eight again?

Empty space, there’s too much empty space.
Blot out the sky, it shines too unimpeded, too complete.
Holles wholly, holly wholle
Noticing unnoticed things like a constant friend’s farewell
Contain a new weight, burdens aspiring to be promises.
I don’t think it will ever be so sunny and seventy-eight again.

Is it okay that now my sole wish, my lone claim
Is to go back to that sleep, that dumb unsuspecting sleep?
Before—before my others slept,
Before we woke to their long, needless rest
And arose once more to never lie down the same.
Will it ever be sunny and seventy-eight again?

I miss them, I miss them all
I miss me, I miss us, I miss US
I miss the dream I dreamed and the hope I had
I miss my child’s dream, the dream he’ll never have
I miss it all, I miss the all of it all
For I know it will never, in just the same way,
Be so sunny and seventy-eight again.

 

SENHOR EN DO CAFE DE LAGOS
He carried a cane though he had no trouble walking.
He wore a leather hat to keep safe his forehead,
But the sun was neither too weak nor too strong
Hemingway, I thought as I looked at him

Somewhere in those novels of sudden sentences and plain description
This man resides.
Among the fisherman and the soldiers
Among the bulls and the toreadors
He lived in the world.
His masculine, Portuguese monde.

We catch each other’s eyes as the waiter delivers the beer.
We nod; only I smile.
With the first taste, his hoary mustache catches only foam
He mashes more than licks.
It is a perfect movement.

Somewhere in those novels, his world exists
But outside of them, it is dead.
And in far too short a time, so is he.

 

ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
Are you there on the other side?
As I look at the expanse
Though I know you are
Still, I wonder

Staring at this, the horizon meets the sea
I am at the other end
Holding friends, pad and pen
Do I really care?

At this moment it doesn’t matter
Nothing would change things
And even if it could, it would not change this moment
Still…I do wonder

New York to Portugal
It doesn’t seem so far a space
From your heart to mine, however

Are you there on the other side?

 

SMALL
How can you feel otherwise
Except small in the face of this
Powerless and inconsequential
Insignificant to the main

One man swims in this
Urine warms his bathing suit
About as much as he changes the sea to yellow
That is the size we have

I have friends who have never traveled
I wonder why when there’s so much to see
I feel sorry for them their compactness
I search for a logic for the way they seek

Is it magnitude they wish?
The ant in his trap explores the world
Boundaries limit, borders breechless
Relativity diminishes the equation

Does this express the existence de Los Dios
I feel quite the opposite
So much unused, untouched, unknown
Inefficiency, a cosmic freak happening
It could have been infinitely other ways

Come here to check the arrogance
Come here and see how important you feel
What are nationalities?
When we are all just sitting on the ocean’s couch

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE AT CABO SAN VINCENTE
I wish I had a lighthouse
Like the one at Cabo San Vincente
To bring me safe to shore
In the troubled waters of my life
To lead me through the fog and clouds
When storms brew the vision of my sight
To stand constant, on-guard to the bedrock
The foundation of a sure foot’s flight

I wish I had a lighthouse
Like the one at Cabo San Vincente
I imagine life would be so much simpler then

 

ALL DOGS SPEAK ENGLISH
I always imagine all dogs speak English
Whether here or elsewhere
With their soft dog eyes, they look at me
In some far off distant land
When they hear my, “Hey there, good boy”
As I beat my hand against my leg
Their eyes beseech me, their jowls form a happy grin
Ears prick and tails wag in frenetic smile half circles
Oh thank god, they seem to kindly sign
“Could you tell me, dear sir, what the hell these people are saying”
We share a look of confusion, his tongue lapping at my hand
As my shrug says “No” I say
“Sorry boy, I wish I could,” petting firmly his furry chest
“But English are the only words I speak”
He nods understanding then he licks my cheek
“They feed me pretty good and let me sleep a lot
And they only bathe me once a month when it rains”
He thinks a pensive moment, cocking his head to one side
As I scratch just behind his ears
“A pretty good life all the same,” he barks
“I was thinking the same thing myself, ol’ boy”
Getting to that spot just above his tail
He stretches out his neck, pursing his canine face forward
“But please sir, please, before you go,
Let me hear it once more in my native tongue”
“Of course,” I say happy to oblige man’s best friend
“Fetch it, boy.  Fetch it here.”
“Yeeeeeeeesssss,
That’s a good boy”

 

A SOUVENIR
Can I take this?
A stone-ah?  Sim?
He waves me away with it.
It feels cold in my sweaty hands

He isn’t a quarter though his path
A design of diamonds and circles patterned with stone
With a pounding object, he mashes them into place
Stone by stone rebuilding Europe
This must takes days, a week…years

Scratched white under my finger nails
Simplicity, purpose, duty
Why did I pick a white one, not gray?
Clean, pure…special

No, not at all
Europe keeping its past
Say no to the tide of informacao
The resistance of one man, one act
Halting the wave of time
Never let the levee break

I came from the land of concrete
I vacation the world to see
And what do I bring back home?
One pure, simple, white stone

 

TURQUOISE
Shimmering, shinning, sheen of green-blue
Crashing a foamy froth against the lime stone
Pouring out, back into the verdant azure mix
Forever

If it were all real
Would it be enough to pay off the world?

 

ME
I have been accused of writing too much about myself
But what else is there?
Are there bigger issues than what is happening to one’s self
And of other so called bigger issues
War, poverty, the environment
They only barely exist when outside of oneself
Becoming real when their proximity heightens greatly
During which then we feel, truly feel their relation

I believe the goal of writing in all forms should be
Understanding the self, the world and your relation to it
I write about me to understand me
To explain me to myself
To stop and think about the things that are,
Why I do the things I do.
Of the poems or the songs or the books
Which have touched me
Have changed my life forever on
All have this, alone, in common
That they affected me

I will show things, produce them and hopefully someday publish
Yes for several reasons
Certainly money perhaps fame and attention
Maybe even adulation
But included in all this is a hope
That through the explanation of me
Through the exploration of who and what I am
Someone else sees a bit of themselves and
Perhaps arrogantly, I hope, understands a bit more about themselves.
And hopefully in our commonness, in our sameness
That another sees or feels or relates to
They will, as I have in like moments,
Feel a little less alone

 

TO MAKE A LIVING
A wool cap pulled tightly down upon his browThe top of a flannel peeking firmly to the North
Out from the dirty blue sweatshirt holding all of him in place

A sheer cliff topped with jagged igneous
Eons, winds and agua have shaped its coarse
Reds and oranges and shells with trips of moss

His shoes about the same as mine
His pants quite similar
His patience, his courage…
I am nauseous just watching him

300 feet to the water
A misstep to the rocks below
The fishing pole cocked up under his arm
Hangs out…out
He is six inches from out himself
God, there has got to be a better way!

He stands to reel with resistance
The wicker satchel awaits the catch
Closer, still closer
I can barely swallow

Nothing
An empty line
After cutting open the clam and placing
Calm, out it goes again
Please don’t throw so hard!

We wait, I write
He sits, we both think
Eons, winds, aqua, and him in mine
What’s in his?
“There has got to be a better way?”


Not Coming This Way Again
I am sitting in a narghile inhaling on a hookah as high as my thigh
Apple aromas and a slight sting in the back of my throat
It is a semblance of other lives
And one has a sense that I will not be coming this way again

I am walking between Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque
The tourism religiously palpable and the religion more faint in its feel
Still such a sight to see, looking East then West at East and West
And I begin to feel that I will not be coming this way again

I am traipsing across Galata Bridge
Asia to one border in front of me and Europe to the other behind
Lost in too many lives and too many definitions
Of what belongs where and why
I am getting a sense that I will not be coming back this way again

I am hiding through the Grand Bazaar
One does not imagine how vast it is going to be
Avoiding “Hi there, where are you from, you are American?”
And blurring through an endlessness of crass,
I acknowledge that I won’t be coming back this way again

Oh so many places I have been
To this land to other lands to my homeland
As someone said so many places the world to see
There isn’t enough time for them all
And with that recognition, a passing sadness
And with that admission, a grieving understanding
And with that acceptance, a nod to time and my loss
And finally, a smile
For though I will not be back this way again

I have been
Here, there and some many other wheres


I Write in Bars
I write in bars listening to assholes loudly explain
The meaning of life, the meaning of the weak dollar, the meaning of Derek Jeter

I write in bars with obnoxious crowds and empty stools
With friendly bartenders and slinging dicks and boob-popping bimbos
Who I’m not sure can write at all

I write in bars with lovely Joes and desperate Sallys
With conniving Pauls and the silent Sammys.
A band of brothers we, a hapless collection they
To only be outdone by me

I write in bars wasting pages chasing dreams
Filling hours with dire accounts of bar-drained lives
Sad and sour, tragic and prideful, quotidian and ephemeral
They are results, they are ends, they are mournful in their ignored grace

I write in bars and anger many so
Ignoring discussions and interest requests
Evading stares and craned necks, dismissing wise-ass cracks and must read suggestions,
All to my loss I am sure they know

I write in bars smoking cigars, eating left-over meals
Drinking beer and bourbon and vodka and wine
First sips, ahhh first sips, they do outdo last drops
But last drops I do too
Because the way home is long and cold and lonely

I write in bars because bars have written on me
Their laments and their loves, their struggles and their hopes, their pasts and their futures
Fulfilled, derailed, waylaid, stunted, curtailed, absorbed and superceded

I write in bars
And god I will miss this life when the day comes that I no longer can.


She Looks
The first time I notice, down the corridor of the train
She has those eyes and their intention
And she is staring with want through a shrouded scarf
I look to see who she is looking at like that
But cannot gather from the angle of repose

All I know is that it is not me, but I wish it was
She smiles slyly, pumps her eyebrows once
There is something so strong in her face though I place her at merely twenty-one
A world-risky knowledge that all around matters little except thine and I

She would be kindly plain without those eyes
Deep ochre, they fire with fire, their determination
She does not see me staring at her, nor does she see me swiveling to see her intended
But not without my trying to gain her attention if only for a moment to feel that gaze head on

The train jolts forward and she reaches for the strip
She looks again but this time with a wink after catching herself
Who is she looking at like that?!
This is killing me not to know and moreover not to be he

The train pulls into the station and she exits and I am still at a loss
She moves off, to the side barely
And stares deeply back into the car through the cloudy fiberglass
She is staring at someone and I am absolutely mesmerized
Not even pretending not to stare at this lioness prowling

Her hand is to her heart now, her gaze as locked as clenched jaws
The train jolts again but this time forward, away from her
Her head follows as we move past
I turn behind again to see an even plainer girl, without such eyes, sharing her same head dress
She is looking down at her feet, flushing slightly
It is her.  It has been her.
I could strangle her I am so jealous

I turn a last time to see that look once more
But she is gone and we are alone in a crowded train
She for whom those looks were launched
And I for whom those stolen glances were not directed
We are alone together, I am aware
We are together alone, she is unaware


Empty Seat on a Long Bench
It has been a long day of touring Istanbul
Roman underground cisterns and ancient Turkmen fortresses and palaces
The sun for late September has been full and fair and I am colored appropriately
Disproportionate on my lengthening forehead and hirsute forearms

I need to sit
Benches populate the square, but most are in the sun
Its reach seemingly affecting only pale me
I spy an Opel, I spy a tram and I spy one long bench in the shade with a woman wearing a burka sitting on one corner of its ten-foot length

I move to it cautiously for reasons I am not quite sure
I sit down at the farthest end and she turns to her side away from me
Only now a back orthogonal to my view
I am afraid to move for I fear a police call, a public riot, an international incident will ensue

It is a very tense moment and this only shade on the square is intensifying the heat, not relieving it
Can she tell?
Okay I am American, I am certainly that with a baseball cap on my head
But can she tell?
From my nose, from my jowly fat and horned-rimmed glasses
Can she tell?
I think so

A face she has seen like so many faces on televisions screens in yarmulkes, with rifles and fighting words
She knows.
She stands proudly, not thinking to even look my way and moves curtly to two benches down, to an empty bench gleaming in the direct sunlight

What progress have we made?
What advance is ever going to be possible
If to avoid my presence entirely
A woman dressed all in black from head to toe
With only eyes slit open to penetrate
Moves down two benches into the late day's Istanbul sun