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POEMS

­­From The Most Beautiful Room in the World (2 poems)

Euphemisms

­­­

You were never better, says the agent

to the actress when the curtain falls.

That’s some baby, says the aunt,

although his ears stick out like sails.

 

Evasive terms conceal the sword,

like put to sleep or pass away,

or iron wrinkles of discomfort

with powder room and W.C.

 

Con artists airbrush to obscure

the truth, to mollify an outrage:

ethnic cleansing, friendly fire,                                          

detainee, collateral damage.

 

Soft words may murder honesty,

but who can love the strident voice

that blasts the ear with accuracy,

leaving the listener no choice?

Roll Call

 

For several years, on December 21, the mother of one of the passengers read aloud

the names of the people who died in the explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

 

To honor her daughter,

and the other sons

and daughters,

she reads their names

in front of the UN building.

The guards grant

somber permission.

Sometimes it rains,

which makes the task

bleaker, but she reads.

The passing winters cool

a nation’s rage

as newer,

larger

terrors

hold the headlines,

and eyes

are turned toward unseen

predators overhead.

But still she reads.

This stage holds

no celebrities

like those who spoke their lines 

at the Twin Towers site

one year after.

This is a lean

recitation,

trimmed

of cameras

and crowds.

 A second mother,

 who used to read with her,

 now cradles her grief at home.

 So she reads

 alone, in a clear

 and persistent voice,

 the names floating upward,

 never

 to come down.

From Dancing with Bare Feet (2 poems)

Sprezzatura

“to practise in all things a certain nonchalance which conceals all artistry and makes whatever one says or does seem uncontrived and effortless.” 
               -Baldesar Castiglione. The Book of the     

               Courtier.

               Tr. George Bull, London 1967.

DiMaggio had it, so did Fred Astaire— 
the dazzle of a sweet swing, the appealing 
insouciance of a dancer on the ceiling— 
the absent strain, the unassuming flair. 

Since what we saw seemed natural as air, 
the artistry that disallows revealing 
bewitched us as we reveled in the feeling 
that we could do it too, if we were there. 

But elegance has shriveled into cool: 
the fashion model pouting into space, 
disdainful glances from the clique at school. 

And accolades for apathy erase 
the reverence for skill that was the rule, 
while we sweep up the vestiges of grace. 

Finalist, Howard Nemerov Sonnet Contest 2009.
Published in Measure, Vol. IV, Issue 1, Winter 2009
Dancing with Bare Feet, Kelsay Books, 2016

Sleeping with Darth Vader

 

A CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) mask blows air

into the nose to open obstructed airways and regulate the breathing

during sleep of those who have Apnea.

 

 

Those mute fermatas—I would hold my breath

until I heard you gasping back to life.

And now at night you’re tethered by a hose,

air hissing softly to a background hum.

More like an ICU than marriage bed.

 

A little white noise insulates my sleep,

but when I wake, the harbinger returns.

Sweet Anakin, the sun declares your freedom.

It’s time to breathe the balm of morning air,

to comfort me with your cheek touching mine .

From Grandma Poems—Not Too Sweet (2 poems)

Humming

 

When I pick him up at nursery school,

near the geraniums,

he sees my face through the open door

and hums.

 

When he attacks my apple cake,

then licks up all the crumbs

from the plate and then the tabletop,

he hums.

 

When his jigsaw puzzle’s almost done,

and the final piece succumbs,

his eyes ignite, his smile spreads wide,

and he hums.

 

What is this sound that captivates,

this pleasure note that comes

from deep inside a happy heart

and hums, and hums, and hums?

Making Apple Sauce

 

Push up your sleeves—yes, both—this could be messy.

Let’s fill the sink with sudsy water to scrub

the wax away. My mother (your great-grandma)

swore that the only apples fit to use

were McIntosh, the crisp ones from the farm.

Each fall, she’d buy a bushel, cook and jar them.

She’d freeze more than a dozen quarts, enough

to last us till the spring when she’d return

from Florida. We smiled each time that we

defrosted one. (She left us all winter long—

I could have used her help, but she was young

and liked to play.)

                                    I’ll cut them into quarters—

you drop them in the pot. We leave the skins on;

they give the sauce a rosy color.  Add some

water—not much. A low flame…now we wait.

 

The apples are soft—let’s add the sugar and lemon.

Close your eyes whenever you squeeze a lemon—

my mother said that it prevented tears.

Five minutes more and then we’ll let it cool….

 

Let’s put this big bowl in the sink, and next

that metal sieve; it’s called a China Cap

because it’s shaped like a Chinese hat. I’ll find

a picture for you later on the Net.

It’s very old. How old? Oh, seventy years

at least.  Can you count up to seventy

by tens? Good work. Let’s push these metal legs 

into the collar holes. See how the sieve  

sits in the collar above the bowl.  We’re ready.

 

Use this big spoon and slide the apples into

the sieve. Now take that wooden cone and press.

Leave the pointy end in the sieve—make circles,

like this (I still can feel her hand on mine).

 

We’re almost finished; here’s the cinnamon.

We’ll leave half plain—then everyone can choose.

I’ll bet that we have almost seven quarts—

you take three home today; I’ll freeze the rest.

(I see her scraping apple sauce off her apron.)

What did I say? Oh, nothing. Excellent job.

After you wash your hands, we’ll call your mother.

From Travelers on My Route (2 poems)

While You're Away

  

For my husband on the eve of his surgery

While you're away I'll shun the rose,

the cool night-breeze that sweetly blows,

the trilling of the cardinal's song.

Somehow it suddenly seems wrong

to revel when the pleasure goes.

 

And yet my tree hydrangea grows

with daily confidence. Who knows?

Perhaps I also can be strong

while you're away.

 

Without your buoyant smile that shows

the spirit of the man I chose,

without your often off-key song

that strives for Wagner (not too long),

I'll mimic coping, I suppose,

while you're away.

Tour Guide’s Lament 

 

Florence, Italy, 2015

 

I lead my flock, who ceaselessly complain

about the coffee, crowds, the bus, the heat.

With haloed smile I comfort, and explain

 

that pasta is al dente here, domain

of Chianti, white bean soup, and wine-braised meat.

I school my flock, whose taste is so mundane.

 

Raising my crook—red banner on a cane—

I point out Brunelleschi's dome. They tweet.

With hollow smile I linger to explain

 

the scaffold-free support built to maintain

that massive weight. They only want to eat.

I tolerate my flock, their sour refrain

 

that Tuscan bread is tasteless, that the rain

is forming channels on the cobbled street.

With frozen smile, I struggle to explain

 

that since the ancient tax, bakers abstain

from salt, and that the dewy air is sweet.

I loathe my flock: they trigger a migraine.

With twisted smile, I lecture through the pain.

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