The shift occurred
just as I paused from my reading
and looked up at the high ceiling
of my spacious shelter.
In a sudden expansion
the rented wood and brick structure
which protects me from the outside
The pieces drifted back
into the endless night
some to become stars
others the orange and gray striped
It was a smooth and easy explosion.
I was folded in
like stiff egg white
inextricably mingled with the movement.
Look for me at dawn
as a thin orange stripe
east over the January plains.
The Athens Olympia Restaurant
On the way to downtown Boston
we had to drive through
miles of eroded neighborhoods
where suspicious children
moved very slowly
like fish in an aquarium.
As we walked the last few blocks,
I tried not to notice the drunks
resting against windows glittering
with watches, handcuffs, and cheap
Finally, at the bottom of the stairs
we could smell the souvlakia.
The meal always began with an ancient
waiter tottering to the table
with bowls of egg lemon soup
in his trembling hands.
Silently, we followed each bowl’s
tricky progress over
the long white tablecloth.
The food was invariably excellent but
there was always the possibility
that before we could finish eating
something horribly sad might happen.
I had to eat my caramel custard
with one eye on the door.
Your eyes were the color of used furniture,
a soft, defeated blue.
I made myself comfortable
perched on the edge of your periphery.
I waved to you daily from the fire escape.
We communicated through closed windows
by pressing our noses and teeth
up against the glass.
It was only when you fell asleep
for weeks at a time that I was required
to hurl myself through the window.
Gratefully you would pick the glass
out of my clothes and make love to me.
I left you like I left
my old, wooden bumblebee –
eventually I became dissatisfied
pulling it along behind me,
its antennae always clicking
instead of buzzing.
I heard you died last summer,
nudged over the line
by some unknown motorist.
Sad sweet procrastinator,
you were there as often as you could be.
Ode To A Young Married Lady
I suppose I had my chance in New York City
when I carried you from the clinic
like a limp demonstrator.
They had you drugged and scraped
clean in three hours.
I might have driven you west or
north to Canada,
but for your red, patent leather overnight case;
like a masochist wearing her keys
on the right,
you advertised your fetish – that hopeless
for respectability and marriage
at any cost.
As we grew older, you managed to perfect
a routine that would have made
Tom Sawyer jealous;
and finally you found a sucker to take
your heavy worthless freedom
from you –
a musician twice your age and a star
on the top ten wanted list.
I ruined all your wedding pictures
as the sober bridesmaid scowling
among the flowers.
I behaved much better at your second wedding
(but I have a few suggestions about the food
for your third).
Married lady, a toast to your indomitable
A Saturday Evening In April
The Motel 8 across the lake
flares up in purple neon.
A man reels nothing in
while his wife blows smoke rings
against the gray and coral sunset.
A silent muskrat noses past,
its engine just below the water line.
A group bursts into private laughter.
The hypnotic squeak of swings
holds us all together.
I lean against a tree,
watch you play tag with your daughter.
For two years we’ve been
what they call a couple.
You smile when you catch me looking,
then I’m ten on my knees by the water
holding something delicate like a frog,
its heart beating in my awkward hands.
On the Day of Atonement
we’d hike up Blue Hill Avenue
to a tiny synagogue
where my grandfather was a regular.
We had to fast until sundown.
Everything reminded me of food.
The late September leaves
were the color of overripe bananas.
It took hours to apologize and be forgiven.
While our stomachs growled
the old men swayed back and forth
spinning the magic Hebrew words.
My grandfather wore a black satin Yamulke
and held a white Tallis around his shoulders.
Like everyone, he eventually died of cancer.
After that, I was swept up
in the modern Diaspora
and deposited in Colorado
where banana colored aspens signal
the long countdown to Christmas.
But one night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
I heard a chorus of bullfrogs
chanting in the cool black air.
It was an old familiar sound.
I got up, ate some granola,
bowed to the steep canyon walls.
On the first day of spring
my cat and I kneel down
in front of the kitchen window.
In silence we watch soggy
floating in the rain.
Under perfect conditions
each round wafer
is supposed to be
a brief miniature of
its symmetrical surroundings,
a tiny booster shot
against the loss of faith.
But I prefer these
syncopated dribs of snow.
All day long
ragged jazz music
from the bone colored sky.
How I Ended Up In Law School
It was always dusk
inside the Golden Cue.
I rented tables by the hour
to the junkies flickering
off and on in that subterranean room.
Sometimes I had to shake the ones
whose thin blue flames went out,
or scrub fresh drops of their blood
from the early morning walls.
I also tried to keep an eye
on the working girls who
wobbled by on high heeled shoes
and knelt down on the dirty
bathroom floors for money.
I was just a tourist passing through.
But six months later
I was still there,
had learned the language,
could digest the food.
When a sluggish alarm
went off inside,
I drifted toward the light
and slipped into the current
of Bermuda shorts and white teeth
flowing past the door.
The sun was hot and blinding.
Everything looked like a postcard.
Oh, oh, I thought, Camus was right,
I’d better apply for something.
Published in the Colorado Lawyer September 2006