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Poetry

AA Photograph by Frederic Brenner

Four old men from Saloniki

Each holds out a numbered arm

Their faces formidable as stone

The frame cannot hold them.

Three wear defiance like a shield,

But the fourth dissolves the others.

I see him alone,

Everything lost in the caverns of his eyes.

Hand against his face, his grief

Has become entirely mine,

Drags me into the interminable

Sorrow in every fold.

originally published in Voices, Israel, 2009

Sequoia 

Nothing like this, not river, not cliff.

From the forest floor a surge of rust

Bursts from a tempest of paroxysmal arms.

Around it fir and pine dissipate,

The sequoia remaining, broad as a house

High as a bird's flight

Grips the Sierra in defiance, claims all your senses

Knocks the wind out of you.

                                                      Mariposa Grove, California, 2007

originally published in Voices, Israel, 2009

Sea Lions on Pier 39 

Done in from a day's fishing, slick as rubber they heave

Onto timber floats, find a spot, flop their wet black bulks, Seeming to expose a fraud of underwater grace

Yet they know to slap a rival, shove him overboard

And yelp delight in victory, then sink back into whiskered sleep

Or lift their dog-heads, yawn, sneeze, bark and bite.

Come upon through crowds along the pier they are

So many cheerful clowns, these antics

Might imply frivolity

But seen again, black heads rising and falling

In the tossed water off Monterey,

Their yelping carries infinite sorrow.

Extraterrestrial 

Pilot and plane in one he wears

Vast puce goggles stitched

Into a leathery flying cap, his wings

Dulled quarries held with fine black cames,

His iridescent armour, seven turquoise plates

Each finely hammered, each

Adorned with fierce black quills.

Soft and naked at birth, supurb now

In metallic hardness, barbed iron legs

Spread like a threat, he walks

In weightless inversion, seeks

What we avoid, feasting off our repugnance,

Will mate on wing, then on his back will spin

Erratic circles, gather dust and die.

Aftermath

Two days passed. The fields

Emptied out, the battle moved away.

The quiet of natural things returned, Mist hung about him at dawn,

At night he smiled at the moon,

A poppy opened its red bowl,

His shirt fluttered, a cricket

Whirred across the field,

Birds tore his eyes, his cheek,

Exposed his teeth, he grinned,

Stared emptily, his hair

Soft and black as coal, a button

Hanging by a single thread,

His fingers poised, hesitating,

A letter in his pocket, unread

A spider leapt

In tiny bounds across his sleeve.

The waves of grass bowed,

Clouds gathered a shower,

Ink ran on pages in his pockets,

Water filled his eye-sockets

Ran down his temples.

Terremoto

On the sixth floor the curve of window held

forest and houses stacked

like steps to a winter sky.

We were in the middle

of a conversation I cannot recall

when the walls, your bed, my chair

lost their roots, like when a second glass

had taken my feet from under me.

You laughed - Look at this, Johnny!

everything interested you.

But I was being swept from the shore Oh, god...

How to hold on, my insides dropping all six floors

as when the fat Jumbo lifts off the tarmac and I

squeeze my eyes closed. 

And when I open them will everything be right?    

Desert

Feather-fingered, the hawk hangs in the shining air,

The reed-river coils like a lock of desert hair,

Dung beetles blunder among the bones and shards,

The sycamore holds against the wind its wind-torn arms,

The water flasks are shattered, the well is dry,

The ribs of the desert exposed against the sky.

Emperor Gum

An almost erotic electric blue, a faience game piece,
Small pod of tropical water beamed into gum-leaf space.

The Emperor Gum flaunts its gaudy adolescence.
Pimpled, tasselled in hairy fire
Scares off birds with its venomous rig.

With admirable tenacity it grips a falcate world,
An oily moon, gorges its world, eats
 
The ground from under its feet, tears
With iron jaws and shoves
The shreddings into turquoise depths,
 
Distended with pubescent lust
Nothing can satisfy this glutton,
 
Not all the gum trees in Australia. It sees
Nothing but leaves, does not stop
To ponder, but eats past its own birthplace -

A row of small, white, broken eggs
On the edge of a crescent blade.

Where will it go from here? Will it ever stop?
The sun cuts a shaft between the trees
And paints the new leaves a bloody red.
 
 

Starlings

A clear, hard, cloudless blue, the first in days.

Into the open space between the roofs

An endless pool sweeps across the sky,

A vast and flawless sphere

In orchestrated unison, like fish

That twist in schooled masses under the sea,

An immense ball that sweeps,

Rolls, stretches, ovals out and plunges down,

No single bird breaking the edge,

Falls into itself,

Rises again, still all as one

It peaks, it veers, then vanishes as it came.

originally published in Voices, Israel, 2008

The Eve of War

A corrugated iron lean-to, a few goats.

Already the desert is cold,

The hills are a torn strip of paper.

We lie gazing up. The sky is a map.

A sudden meteor shower, gone

Almost before we are aware,

Subdued voices behind rocks,

A theatrical flash above the mountains,

A bleat, a crackle in the thorn...

Something is going to happen.

Wallnut

Thick-cushioned bounty,

High-hung in a boat-leafed world,

Heavy on the death-bedded edge

Of a drawn-out summer, its throat slit,

Falls with a thwack on the leaves,

Drops in a padded thump,

Splitting its pungent oil-skin wrapped

Husk, crack against the stone,

Exposing its secret interior -

The wax-brown carve of a cat's ear.

Monterey Cypress

Born of a ghost movie - haunted tree,

Carved by a wild wind off the bay,

Dreadful sculpture of fear, wracked

Against the dull rock and leaden sea,

Salt-bleached, torn alive and dead, 

A chord of the soul, an ocular screech,

In multitude, writhes like a worm,

Endures all the world's pain.

                                                     17 Mile Drive, Monterey, 2007

Old Tom

He has curled up under the oleander.

Ants in his fur are impatient

At this slow journey into death.

The fleas have already abandoned him,

Falling like black drops of rain from the thin,

Matted pelt over bone.

He will no longer eat. Milk held out is sniffed

And touched with a pink tongue,

Then turned away from. His occasional moan

Is not regretting the approaching end,

But rather a protest of

The present taking far too long.

Yosemite

The ice is gone, and the Indian.

We are left with the silver stone

(So wet, so fresh, the knife seems only

Just put down),

And the trees

Flowing through the valley...

And the river... 

September

Another cord has snapped - nothing can fill

The void that plunges into the roots of the city.

The image remains like the sun behind closed lids.

Faces and flags tatter and fade, the rivers

Slip by unnoticed and the sky remains open

Paper Nautilus

Whiter than this page, weightless.

To hold it is to hold air, its fluting

An ocean's pulse.

I finger the surface, imagine

Moonlit waters, rigged schooners,

See flying fish skim the surface, taste,

The salt, rise and dip. It is

 

An unanticipated gift, a treasure that placed

By a window will set sail, fly in the air and shatter

Like the end of a dream.

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