Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Sentence

There are times when you are
under the influence of whatever
might be influencing you
and you have just finished saying
to yourself whatever it was
you were saying and you know
if you say it again you will hear
your own voice in your head
speaking to the audience
in your heart and you figure
you have just lightly touched the sky.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lives In Progress

When So-and-so met her
she was already Much-the-much.

Lucky first is sweet and
So-and-so and Much-the-much
felt smiled upon and loved.

The thing got good.
Got better still.
Near peaked.
The best seemed a handhold away,
but not luck, nor will
nor providence gave boost
and So-and-so and Much-the-much
passed all the signposts going down.

But this had yet to unfold,
preceded, as it were,
by the years when
Clear-headed and Hard-nosed
stalked fresh and deep and
sperm-spewing into the yielding
valley of the Great Green River
and the path to boys and girls was
blazed. Blazed.

And this was cause for celebration
without biblical precedent.
So here we are
10,000 years later,
give or take an Ice Age or
some geological wink, still celebrating.

Clearly this one is a party
whose guests have rooted deep
long after So-and-so and Much-the-much
have forgotten that they were and who.

For their survivors,
coming after lights-out:

Begin anew you Eve,
you Adam. It’s Friday,
and the party starts now, if you will.

But it would not hurt to keep in mind
that how you begin has much, quite much,
to do with how all this concludes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

And We Do Not Cry Out

without the gift of quick.
In this dark,
a crowd slumbers by.

In this silence, sounds and
echoes come to quit.
Whom do we grieve,
one by one, and many,

in our bereavement?
In time’s draining away,
we no longer wish to say,
for the naming comes too late.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Take What You Can Get

This day, this hour,
this minute, maybe this time, only,
there seems no outlet for the power
he briefly possesses.

He wonders
that, and if,
this could be true.
Answering big questions,

he wishes himself
to center stage,
a great console of buttons
to direct, discharge,

otherwise control the surge
of his own humanity.
Wonders if this be
his sole immortal moment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


In this moment,
the world around is a perfect space.
The hot point inside you
and the cold point there
balanced with the hot and cold points
the universe around.

As this happens,
you rip and run naked down streets and alleys.
This you do stretching toe and heel,
transforming asphalt with your foot fall,
splashing through sea foam stroking your soul.

You stride this way,
whip arms swinging,
shoulders like easy oil,
greasing, flinging you through damp and distance.

The darkness divides for you,
stampeding by,
bearing new secrets.

Like racehorses and hound dogs,
your nostrils throb and grasp
every scent,
your own, the moist surround,
all the exuberant plants of the night.

You are hailed,
you are summoned,
you are called
to this exquisite place.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Understand the wait for what
it is. There will be no great leap
forward. That debate is over.
The throng does not march toward

ordained fate. There is simply each
meandering face, longing for common
flow, and the hard places along the way.

So, it behooves us to wish
each other well, to mourn the dead,
to fight like hell
for the rest. Occupy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wild Dogs of Poets

The wild dogs of poets
speak sharps and blunts,
wish the streets
to the back alleys

of emerald cities;
some singing separately
and, alive for now,
glow in the dusky, dreaming sky.

Some scratch for pennies
wherever there are no such
generosities. Some kill time
as though they are flush,

And some few,
the chosen,
die on the barricades,
hopeful and ready.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fort Bunker Hill Park

Up wildflower way,
weedy and rotted,
echoes of bands and cannon,
and rioting green,

nature eating her own,
caged gut-twisted sick,
Warrior John
carves a flag

and the date 9/11,
signing his name
POW-MIA where
no one will see.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Swamp Thing

There is much to forgive.
We are ornate
and gothic and damp
with sin and fertile

with loves
and with lies.

our sorrow
our joy


Friday, September 23, 2011

Israel's existential problem and my poetry

Israel has been on the cusp of an existential problem since its creation. The Arab revolts against repressive regimes have resulted in even deeper isolation for Israel. Worse, from an Israeli point of view is the probability that Palestinians will become even more resistant to Israeli rule.

The hostility of the Arab street toward Israel makes perfect sense, but most Israelis believe that Palestinians and other Arabs hate them because they are Jews and because Islam cannot reconcile itself to the Jewish presence in the Middle East. Israel's self-deception about this makes sense only because most Arabs perceive Jews as illegitimate occupiers of Palestinian territory and nothing more. In this perception, Jews are the embodiment of more than 100 years of Western occupation and exploitation. In that the creation of the theocratic state of Israel created a mechanism for continuing this occupation and exploitation, Arabs have no reason to perceive Jews any other way.

The long-term threat to the survival of the Jewish theocratic state and of Jews in the Middle East will remain, and, with time, grow more extreme. For Jews there is only one alternative: to embrace democratic self-determination for all of Israel and Palestine. Jewish survival in the Middle East will be a tenuous thing under a true democracy, but under those circumstances the entire world would act to create security for the Jews who remain. The alternative is the end of the garrison state of Israel, the end of the Occupation and catastrophe for the Jewish people.

Always Jewish, Lately Palestinian
I am Jewish because the love of others made me so.
I am Jewish because I grew up on the south side of Chicago; there even my public school was Jewish.
I am Jewish because my grandfather was oh, so Jewish, and I felt it then and feel it now.
I am Jewish because angry Irish boys felt my Jewish nose at the end of their Catholic fist.
I am Jewish because we are commanded to remember when we were slaves in Egypt and I do.
I am Jewish because dissent is my faith and my chosen fate.
I am Jewish because in my grandmother's kitchen nothing would rise, but of everything there was plenty.
I am Jewish because the South Shore Country Club was founded by people who would not let us in.
I am Jewish because my Dad once slugged a guy at Comiskey Park who cussed a Jewish pitcher for the White Sox.
I am Jewish because the Jewish god is not diminished by my disbelief.
I am Jewish because Emma Goldman was Jewish, and so was Karl Marx and so was Groucho Marx and Jesus, too, for that matter.
I am Jewish because of the Maccabees and Masada and crusader violence and Spanish inquisitors and Cossack pogroms and the ghetto and the death camps and because I also planted trees in Israel.
I am Jewish because Jewish workers fight in labor struggles and because Jewish people resist racism and because, like all the world’s poor, poor Jews endure.
I am Jewish because being Jewish means never using violence against another except when life, itself, is directly threatened, and that principle must never be compromised.

With these declarations I begin a path to other truths:
I am Palestinian because we are all children of Abraham.
I am Palestinian because I, too, have been homeless.
I am Palestinian because we have a future together or none, at all.
I am Palestinian because Palestinian yearning is so like Jewish yearning.
I am Palestinian because I have been uplifted by the love of Palestinians.
I am Palestinian because peace in Arabic and in Hebrew bestows the same gift.
Although Sarah and Hagar are our separate birth mothers, I am Palestinian because we all live in the embrace of one mother, and will return to her.

If you summon one of us for cruel judgment, there will be no telling us apart.

November 13, 2009

You know when we met
I was a girl who loved
Baal for his rain and sweet water
and might love you for your youth and sweet breath.

I was the lure brought you unknowing
to Siddon where the sun skied mornings
above cedar hills, making jewels
on the crest of harbor swells.

Jezebel, chief’s daughter,
dreaming of many things,
but most often of the boy
to make my thighs quiver,

and none of the queen who later
would make my eyes run wet and salty.
You, pale desert boy, came,
hooked by my dreams,

with hair like raven’s wings
and prophet’s dreams of glory
and torturer’s dreams of pain
and a core of discontent

that you were born a shepherd.
I would have left my father’s hearth
to be your shepherdess, but for
your claim to something greater.

Our joyful dance pleased Baal, I know,
while you pretended grim shame before your god
who punished you like an angry father,
whom you yet embraced.

Were we to approach the other now,
would you wet your lips for this sweet Phoenician,
or would I be target for your rage
and angry accusations?

Do your loins remember
my dewy hills at dawn,
the little rivers of our wet fertility
dampening chest and thigh and mysteries?

Or would you pretend to a purity
that never pricked a gentile?
I am reconciled that I did not defy my father,
fight Ethbaal to love my Israelite shepherd boy.

But I tried and tried
to come to you and cried,
Eli, your Jessie has come,
when I arrived, but there was no answer.

Had you waited for me? And misunderstood
my absence? Cursed me for rejecting you,
as you curse me now for turning
from the worship of your god

who demands more than other gods?
Now, Ethbaal is king in Tyre
and I am queen in Samaria
and spread my legs for Ahab,

the Israelite king, whom you daily damn.
I am thus, Queen Jezebel,
the living bond between Israel and Phoenicia,
which you condemn,

somehow forgetting the beauty
of Eli and Jessie,
as your one god does dismiss
the beauties of the many.

Your own voice,
which once whispered
sweetness in the courtyard
of the temple of Baal and laughed

in the sight of the sky goddess, Lady Nut,
your voice thunders and threatens,
slanders innocence, proclaims
dominion for one god above all gods,

dismissing dancing and worship before many.
My Eli, sweet tormented shepherd,
it is not our gods who invent unkindness,
but ourselves. This your lord god must know,

though you shrill otherwise,
and speak of a god blind to
the pools of kindness and courage
in foreign worshippers. How like the way

you deny knowing the pool of love in which
we bathed and sung praise.
Do you remember the hart at sunrise
leaping our prostrate bodies?

I crept the shadows before that dawn
and startled when you arrived beside me.
And when you opened your robe,
I stepped inside your arms and

warm wrap of cotton while we sank
to earth, your lips sweet on mine,
your tongue a spring of wild water
plunging to my thirsty roots. We moved

slowly to the late calls of night birds,
quickening even as the owls hooted
slow caution, finishing to the sound
of hooves pounding, the hart

robust and wild above us and gone.
In the peace we found, I swear I heard
the great heart beating and felt the
throbbing pulse below,

just as it might have been
on the glorious first day.
I said the gods are smiling and you looked
at me and I said you are

smiling, too, and you said, this time, yes.
Do you remember this just as your god
of many promises remembers only
those he wishes to keep?

Do you remember only that
which serves you now, a perfect
acolyte of your god?
In your zeal you are become

a destroyer, first of earthly desire,
your youthful wish to sip the wines
of a hundred kingdoms forgotten,
your wish to sample the women

of every prince of every port
of the wide Phoenician sea, lost,
perhaps gone as though never dreamed.
These are shriven within your heart,

consumed in the desert heat
of a different passion, your
service to your one god, who
requires devotion not in me to give.

You denounce Ahab, whom you call
the willing tool
of the prostitute of Tyre.
But Ahab leads as leaders do,

has kingly duties I do not hinder,
ministers to the myriads,
who worship whomever they will,
ministers to the myriads

who toil each day and wear down
like rocks in the stream,
who suffer hardship of drought,
and locust plagues, and children born still

and children died young
and lovers claimed too soon. It is Ahab
who must guarantee them fed and succored, Ahab
who cares for the widow and

soothes the orphan, Ahab
who keeps the granaries full against famine
and decrees no favorite among the gods
of the people of Israel, among the gods

of Israelites, Ammonites, Edomites and
Moabites. And his people praise Ahab’s
forbearance, thank Ahab for kindness,
while you call Ahab sinner.

In the King’s court, I have stood for
sandalmakers from Ammom, stood for potters
from Moab, saying to the King that these, also,
are his people, saying that there should be

no special privilege for the Jews
and the King has ruled as he would
after careful listening. Ahab is no tool of

But Elijah Hanavi tells the story,
Jezebel the prostitute from Phoenicia
twists Ahab’s judgment and sins against
the one god.

And who listens?
The Hebrew zealots listen, and
the hopeless, aching for legends of more and
better, listen, and those who already bear hatred,

they listen. These have never seen the sea,
or the natural beauty of Phoenicia’s hills
or the works of other men in Tyre. You
have made allies of these men whose

hard lives will change as Ahab succeeds,
but the gifts of milk and honey they are
to inherit are merely empty promises
from an intolerant god. Who will protect Israel

from Assyria? This lord, your god, has no chariots.
Ahab’s soldiers, Ammomites, Edomites,
Israelites, Moabites, these are Israel’s shield.
The soldiers of a kingdom of many customs

and many faiths, these will protect Israel,
as will Ahab, the King, whom you damn.
You have raised the Hebrews, enough
riot through Samaria and all of Israel, to kill

450 priests of Baal. And now you flee to the hills,
claiming that Jezebel sends vengeance racing after.
But it is I who remain behind.
I who calm Ahab, who

wishes to decree your death.
Seek no vengeance, Ahab, I say.
Only bring Elijah to explain this deed
in your court. But, yes, Eli, I also urged

Ahab on, saying hunt Elijah,
he must answer to the families
of the lovers of other gods.
And as I speak

I am split in pieces
I am Ahab’s queen
I am the princess who was
Eli’s love and the tears

that Jessie cried
to the sun that rose in Eli’s
face as he wandered east
spring fresh from Jezebel’s eyes.

Does Elijah triumph here?
Will the story of Jezebel and Ahab be told
according to Elijah? And what in turn
will be the fruit that grows from such stories?

But Shepherd boy, know this,
Jessie will not flee the lies and sordid tales.
I am a chief’s daughter, Queen of Israel.
What you have sown,

I will be here to reap. What you decree,
may come, but Jezebel does not flee.
I remember you once had such a will
when we loved a lifetime ago.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When a poem comes,
it comes on the crest
of a tall wave,
for which there are
two or three, sometimes
four, no more,
precise words.

If your words are
the right words,
the poem is yours
to make your own,
but if your words
are not precisely right,

the poem is gone
on the crest of the wave
it rode in on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

As Einstein and I Perceive

On my way to wherever,
I bring a pencil with
that I might

my thoughts.
here’s what
I’m thinking:

My turtle’s name
is Einstein and we do
quite well together,
but I retain all naming rights

over creation as
Einstein and I
perceive creation
to be.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Smell of Eternity

On the heels of Irene,
recently stormed through,
comes aromatherapy for dogs.

The middle-sized black one
sniffs out the remains of life
leaking from torn branches.

At the pure small pool
formed in the hollow below
the fallen tree’s root ball

is mudbath magic and
where the sun strikes home
the smell of eternity.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get Me to God*

I’m sixty-four,
and slower,
so slow.

I can feel the shaking
on its way,
even before the lovely
orange orangutan.

It starts in the soles of my feet
planted on the good earth
and follows
my toes,

calves, thighs, every muscle,
like a good massage and
commences to shaking,

freight train epithets
and I am glad,
plain glad,
to have met such a quake.

It is, therefore,
and altogether a shame,
to have to announce the news
that said earthquake

two days ago under
an altogether different
set of circumstances. Give praise.

*Title honors Lucinda Williams

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birds Command the Dawn

In the full light
of a summer’s day
is where I never go.
I miss that way

the summer glow,
what the still winds say,
what the mighty sun demands.

And, as the birds believe
they command the dawn,
I tend to my deception
that what I miss is no way there.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rocket Science

It was the different leaves
of a different tree
rustling in the wind
a millennium ago.

Or a millennium ahead, as if
now and then mattered.
I was the first woman
to say no, or the next,

as if refusing to be property
set some kind of record.
But this is my story of yes,
of laying myself down

on my cushion of gathered moss.
Of laying myself
between earth and sky
while a swell of crickets

kissed the breeze around us.
Our hearts fluttered with the rise
of a second swell and soared
with the music of different birds

in the different bushes nearby.
To this man I did say yes,
yes, as his breath feathered my thighs.
Hunting by scent, arriving at the

crack of my dawning,
of his awakening
into a different time
of manhood and glory.

Coming together at a bonfire
of young memory,
the fluid crescendo
of our rocket works,

briefly forgetting she who I alone will deliver
(though she will one day launch
poems to the stars).
We sang to each other.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Shaking My Head

You know the lines.
A long time ago,
when both people and animals
lived on the earth,

a person could become an animal,
if she wanted to
and, the poet wrote,
that was the time when words were like magic?

Those lines?
We were all shaman, then,
channeling vibrations and empathy.

When we stood,
booted toes in slush, faces to the shining heaven, eyes closed,
winged hearts rising on the heat radiating inside out,
your seven-year-old toes thawed and snow drifts puddled out.

I had that moment once more
this morning walking to the sun,
feeling the hot surge,
toes to fingertips.

We don’t have those moments
so much anymore
because we are so rarely shaman,
though we need to be.

If I were wizard now,
prisoners would be free,
comrades resurrected where they fell,
our wounded would be swift once more.

These might be things are not,
and my diluted magic is less than what
it takes to clean the breakfast wrappers
scattered near the traffic light ahead.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Unfolding

I set out
line by line
to steal a poem from others
and piece by piece to build my own.

Sampled the sun,
the English glow,
the player of players who taught me
in my trusting youth,

passed from me now in much the way
the poet’s fire
burns too hot and,
finally, out.

As from a mountaintop,
he looked upon me,
called me to account,
but I stepped beyond the shouting

with a fresh scheme for thieving
and a dream of myself retrieving
the fantastic honors
we imagined for ourselves.

Blaming others for their loss,
though they were never more
than opium smoke or
the distant drums of nightmares

in the tumbling homes of hermits,
themselves returned from bathtub voyages,
aground like always, suffering
and staggering for the door.

Seeking foes whose courage
the cannibal in me
might make a meal and, after,
flower, fresh and brave,

to hug and stroke and love
with wide embrace and tender focus
the lives of others to whom
I meant to give so much.

And in the giving
get myself a place
to root in a world of rhythms,
daytime, nighttime,

heart on fire, singing battle songs
and hymns along our lusty way,
consuming obstacles like prey,
sipping at all the waterholes.

Bold, careless as the unscarred,
we were fountains of endless beauty,
showering gifts on a fortunate few,
never wishing to be wise

because what would be the point?
Never wishing to be wise
because what would be
the point?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Inside My Fingertips

I feel like a poet.
Sometimes I feel it like an itch
inside my fingertips,
like a longing
to be over there with you,
like a leaping at my core
to the heart
of pulse and silence.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dreaming of Piccolos

On the march, my poems--
parade of fat men,
shirts untucked and shoes untied,
and I want to make some fun.

Witless, I say, and louder
Tubs and tubas, too, I call.
Heads turn,

focus briefly limpid eyes
and of a sudden
dripping tears,
and the jeers catch in my throat.

Stepping forward, pause and speak.
You are not so fat as that.
And what tubas do not dream of piccolos?
March on as you are, march on.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Shades of Eben Flood

You know what they say,
about fish in hand
worth a whole lot more
than learning to play

with others in ways
that do not distinguish
us from the herd.
If I were Eben Flood,

or he me and somehow here,
he/we would dodder past
this blasted scape,
like none near Tilbury Town.

And if ol’ Eben
were to raise our jug,
standing in the shrouded lane,
“Like Roland’s ghost

winding a silent horn,”
he would be tested
in the search for worthy comrades
lest he were worthier than I.

But, I cried, like Eben did,
of whom are you speaking, and why?
I’ll tell you, I said, I’m the one

hiding from juggernauts
crouching in shadows,
longing for hilltops,

wishing for friends
to steal with me
the jug from the juggernaut
and share it around
until it is empty
and we’re on high ground.