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 (or A Blowfly)

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.

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