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On Shaky Scaffolding

Burn the dresses
ghosts on hangers
feux d'artifice.

That repressed world
glimpsed through cracks and gaps
from which he reels

hellfire itself.


knows when it's your last
roast duck
cherry pie

last shudder in a lover's

enjoy it, He says,

enjoy it.

Workshop Chorale

your voices
in my poem
like a madrigal

it savors of your taste


digging a lobster out of its shell
too much labor
let it keep its meat

deboning a chicken
the flesh clings tenaciously
even in death


everything stops
just long enough
to be seen

street glare
petrifies suits and coats
in headlong haste

behind these doors
in shadowy rooms

a red bird
in a silver cage

Seventy Something

reading philosophy
I think

my heart might stop

demanding attention
a distraction
like a ringing telephone

I'm puzzled
slightly annoyed

glancing sideways


      I: Warp

a hospital killed this woman
by failing to check the blood flow
in her legs
distraught husband
two daughters
where it was blocked
and two grandchildren


       II: Weft

after the sobbing and weeping
there is chatting and eating

the family, once submerged
will be lifted on a wave of
malpractice millions

can you see His handiwork
in the fine gold stitchery
below the blood-black splashes
in the weave?

Mood Piece
                         For John A. Williams

wet leaves pile on sidewalks
pavement reflects street lights
steam films the windshield

we are driving toward daybreak
toward the jet pink trails of sunrise

accompanied by the long
low notes of a cello

a blue heron
balanced on one foot

laved by ripples
wakes of ferries
and fishing trawlers

their force
to lift a tress of eel grass
stir a stalk

Tar Babies

Surrender holds them

Discipline welds their love
each slap a pledge.

Initials on a flank
publish the banns.

One's transfixed.
One can't withdraw the sword.


surrender is the Trojan horse
that lets her in
a stratagem, a ruse of course
so she can win

surrender is a camouflage
in which to hide
the most effective sabotage
bores from inside

the king in all his majesty
is overthrown
his power is a travesty
she keeps the throne

To the Wind Only

shots in the distance
hoodlums in uniform
tossing books to the fire

culture a ghostly flame
flickers and dies
across the cold landscape

in the towers
they work late
gathering names

till a dark savior descends
dispatching trucks and motorcycles
to purify the race

in the ashes
behind death's factory
charred fragments of my collarbone

my skull a memento mori
among the curios
of a low level bureaucrat

Special Effects

suns at light speed
spiral out of future

rush toward us
spill off edge of eye

we grab at
starry veils

dusty shreds

What It Is

love's no mélange
alloy or

it doesn't "add up"
it is

one perfect thing


I have broken up with her
for the last time

at least I hope it's the last time

I think I hope it's the last time

I hope I hope
it's the last


To Woman

you, in acceptance of the chains of love
become the sun that gives his planet light
and if he wanders from your fixed abode
his orbit like a tether stretches tight


luscious sloshing, sliding of waves
weight of water cool along the skin

electric fish in coral gardens
sea-urchin, anemone

submarine sounds
surf echoing

breaking into light

Dialogue for One Voice

Go home.
It's over.

If you've learned anything, if you've changed
Bring that to your next lover.

Forget me.
Forget this place.
I don't want you here.

I want you to go away.


people with such attenuated
threads of talent

given a microphone
accept no limits on our patience

of course we'd love
another twenty minutes
of your unique brand
of mediocrity

good grief!
life is too short

sit down!
go home!

but you don't, do you?
you are inspired by your own drivel
and think we are as well
because we sit here

you give us the whole hideous repertoire

and yet somehow
after endless torment

we applaud

On the Occasion of My Son's Wedding: June 22, 2002

a hopeful step
taken in the fulness of time
whose pulse will quicken
as this celebration breeds

anniversaries, birthdays
works and deeds
family gatherings, vacations
Christmases, school plays
and confirmations

holiday laughter and noise
to fill the continuum
of your tomorrows
with passing sorrows
and enduring joys

I would tellyou, son,
abd new-found daughter
how as you live
the marriage will make clear
all the anxieties your hearts encumber

but I'd be swiftly overcome by slumber
and you far too preoccupied to hear

so I'll just dance and sing
like a Hasidim
to launch you on this marvellous career
and shout, "The Saints be with ye,"
and "L'Chiam!"
a word for which I cannot find a rhyam
that means long life, good health, love and good cheer