Have a ....... day

Have a nice day, have a
memorable day, have (however
unlikely) a life-changing day, 
have a day of soaking rain and lightning,
of stinging insects, have a 
confusing day thinking about fate. 

have a day of wholes
you fall into
yes, have a day of poorly marked
unrecognizable wholes you fall into 
and can’t climb out of,
have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day, have a
riotously unproductive day,
a grim, jawclenched Clint
Eastwood vengeful killer day, 
have a day of raging, hair-yanking jealousy 
and meanness,
have a day of climbing
out of wholes, a finely tuned 
empty day.

have a nice day of walking, 
have a nice day of hunting, 
have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, 
have a day of swallowing
hard, of breathing
deeply, a day of fondness for beetles, 
and macabre spectacles, of irreverence
about anything you want,
of just sitting and wondering.

It’s not going to help. It doesn’t matter.
Have a day of “it doesn’t matter.”
And “maybe you don’t care.” 
Have a day of bread and water
and breathing dark winds
of being carried by water
of gasping for breath,
of speaking the truth, of breathing
and silence, of diving into cool water
and sitting down 
crushing bread together.


for Jeff - 1941-2004

“Time, the punch line to God’s favorite joke, one we never really get.” --Sy Safransky

1 -

One of your old students 
called last night. He’d just heard 
and wanted to talk. 
By the end of the conversation 
we were saying we loved each other. 
We’d never thought to say that 
long ago when we’d felt it
and were embarrassed by it. 
Now that we’re older, losses, 
life’s torturers, loosen our tongues. 

I could say death forces love out,
the way an electrical fire
spreads silently through the house at night, 
and wakes us, suddenly.
We race for the doors, picking up
what we can. Then stand outside,
shocked, shaking, clouds of smoke, 
flames breaking through the roof. 

2 -

So, dear friend, for you, no more struggles,
no more retinitus pigmentosa - 
eyesight ebbing away as if a wire screen, 
you said, were growing thicker,
blocking out the light - 
no more bumping into objects 
bruising your shins as you made your way 
to the kitchen for a midnight snack; 
no more brutal insomnia, sleeping pills that failed, 
walking silent streets for hours;
no more hand on my shoulder
as I guided you through the dark restaurants;
no more political arguments that you fed
to anyone who needed them, or didn’t.

No more bourbon and orange juice,
no more twilights, no more loneliness; 
no more sitting in your office, papers
scattered across desk and floor, 
your chair about to fall apart; 
no more challenging questions to your students,
no more wondering about Kafka’s Penal Colony 
where the great machine inscribes punishments 
on the flesh of the condemned.

No more misunderstandings, no more rage;
no more depressed, suicidal sister; no more
alcoholic mother who grabs you and forces you 
to dance with her, breathing in your young boy’s face, 
no more father who cared so much about you 
he relentlessly pushed you around.

No more worry about money,
no more wishing it could have been better,
no more ex-wife, no more ex-house,
no more stoicism, no more neglecting yourself,
no more plans, no more sex,
no more thinking about sex, no more forgetting
about sex, no more anxiety about sex, no more
laughter about sex, no more memories of those girls 
you wish you’d known what to do with 
when they offered themselves to your hesitant touch.

No more thinking of C, no more 
arguments with C, no more struggles with intimacy; 
no more loving nights in the large, soft bed, your hand 
reaching toward her, finding the dear bone
of her shoulder; no more wondering about the future, 
how it would be to go blind.

3 -

You didn’t want a funeral, or a memorial,
but on Sunday we gathered anyway,
not sure what we’d do or say, 
and did a lot of laughing, 
recalling your wild, inspired dancing,
how you loved your kids, your students
and loathed the indecencies of our lying world. 
We were like a flock of small birds 
unsure where to fly when those cold winds arrive.
We’d lost our radar. We couldn’t read the stars.
We laughed because we were lost.

Of course we ignored a lot,
kept many things to ourselves;
You and I had good times I won’t tell anyone about. 
Jokes I couldn’t repeat exactly, 
strange delight and animal dread. 
How I wanted you to learn braille 
so you could read Kafka in your darkness.

Instead, I am learning the searing
symbols of departure.
I imagine seeing you, unsteady, 
weaving down the street. 
In dreams, you pack a suitcase.
There are hard ancient pathways
inscribed in us. Logics 
I touch but don’t understand. 
A language of those who can’t see.
It’s all we have.


Why baseball doesn't matter

It’s not because the game’s so slow,
that the pitcher has to step down off the mound,
pick up the resin bag, adjust his hat, adjust
his pants, spit, pound his glove, 
step back onto the rubber, 
then peer down, shake off a sign or two,
finally nod approval and only then 
rear back and unleash the baseball.

It’s not because basketball has more action:
the gliding down court -dragonflies in a mating dance,
sliding and angling, start then stop, backtrack, fake,
then dart toward the basket and the slam dunk
like a quick childbirth.

Nor is it that football has that stirring macho vibe,
getting tanks into position, the “bomb” lofted
downfield and the grim drama 
of the goal line stand, like trench warfare, 
some beachhead, young men face down in the sand.

And it’s not that America’s altogether
changed (though it has.) It’s not 
the steroid home runs, not those 
million dollar player salaries,
not the glitzy gold chains 
around their expensive necks, 
not the greedy owners, not that the Dodgers
left Brooklyn and the Braves left Boston or
the…what was it…left where?

It’s that tonight, in midsummer,
under an inquisitive fraction of a moon,
the wind pulls a thin blanket of dust
off the distant fields and carries it for miles.

I feel the black edges of night
like a curled fern leaf, start to unfold,
and a small grasshopper
settles on my hand and I lift it and
watch it, suddenly, fly from me
like a knuckle ball, like the startling,
crooked spirit of grief.

And I stand up and look around
and find myself alone
for the long seventh inning stretch;
tiny night lights appearing inevitably
over this mysterious, damaged world
of triumphs.