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With Venom

So many famous poets of today
fêted by universities
darlings of journals
lions of the lecture circuit

whom history, respecter of no
cliques and claques
harvards and yales
publishers dust and dead

will winnow

For Dangerous Dan

I cannot mourn
although no one could match
the playful dancing of his restless mind
nor ever cast his uncreated odes.

Who's that guy in the coffin?
It's not Dan Murray.

It's Dan said Allen.

Then it's the first time
I've seen him
that he wasn't smiling.

Since She Left

a rock
shatters the window
to a billion crazy bits

winter splits the walls
rots the door frame
ice pries open cracks

I clutch about me
what remains
of timber, rags and lath

cannot conceive
this cold had been
kept out

by the invisible


I smelled shit on my fingers
while eating bread

a monk said the Buddha
is a good stick
to shovel shit

my anger at the shit
kept me from God


You give yourself
To loving me.

And I, in taking
Find a sanctum of embrace
Beyond heart's breaking.

As on the windy beach
Where bamboo poles
Balance a roof of leaves

I held, caged larks
Your fingers in my hands
Shaking within your outsized sweatshirt sleeves.

So I would hold
In deeply vaulted cave
Embers of ruby
Flakes of pirate gold
Banked flame

If waking to dark, could
Wondering, feel your warmth
Breathing with mine
Sensed the same.


You were my raft.

Under your gaze, reborn

My spirit flared.
How to accept
Being both sent and kept
Further to tear
What was already torn?

Now when I most need love
Crushed by the magnitude
Friendship withholds

I cannot bear
To look
Into the garden.


I am the buffalo
In the drawing room
The ox in the garden
The bear in the china shop.

I am unbridled energy
Shattering all facades
Smashing the stage-set
Tearing the scrims and screens
The mise en scene.

Befriend me at your risk
If you have gods
You could not stand to see
In smithereens.

My glare disperses
Sacred bric-a-brac
My love releases
Moat-encircled dreams.


rapt in her spell

its limb-turned

I can as soon escape the envelope
of a dimension

as this pure aura
within which
I move freely

now violently

trembling with capture


at our age
we're dying
and should be dying

ever slower
in a time-lapse film

it is no longer our age
this is not our music
not our words

alone, or chatting with a grandchild
of childish things

we are too foolish to die
or to live

at our age

My Own Image

I've scooped out the flesh of the world
like the inside of a gourd
till it's empty as a soap bubble
a thin film over nothingness
a shimmering zero

Only my footsteps...

in morning silence

harbor flat
a faintly hammered glass

For Richard Elman, Jan. 2, 1998

at Stanford in '55
love-hate for Yvor Winters
was our bond

you bought my '47 Plymouth
when I left

in '94 I found you again
a Long Island neighbor

your presence
lofty, impressive, kindly
facilitating connections among people
knitting the social fabric

always a Jewish joke
when you called
always genuine concern
for my welfare

rapt at the receiver
I was your telephonic sounding board
as the brilliant narrative
flowed on and on...

lately, depressed by poor health
but still, always a friend

gentle, human
a real lovable guy

and Richie, if you see Yvor
tell him he can still
blow it out his ass


what's torn, reborn
in any random shape
hears motors
roaring capillaries, sirens
clock's weary catalog of seconds

her stray finger in my mouth
memory's food
sole on instep
palm on chest

I reach into the emptiness
beside me

Court Calendar

In a sluggish tide of legal documents
pushed with the garbage
of crime and politics--
twenty-eight years of marriage
soaks through the hands
of lawyers, legal secretaries
to the high court

in waivers, stipulations, disclosures
summonses, allegations, depositions,
appraisals, actuarial computations
the inner-lives of families
to the grindstones of jurisprudence.

So is a severance severed
and every street and alleyway
of marriage duly sealed
and marked with barriers.

Only the traffic of the court
connects us now
and even that shall end
leaving two citizens
tasting strange sunlight
full of empty freedom
and unquiet thoughts.


Being out of touch
and out of time,
I do not turn to you.
I cannot fake
the tenderness that skirts
the fringe of crime
The gesture neither random nor ordained.

From loss of courage
from the years that make
Falstaff of Mark Antony, I clutch
the faded rhododendrons that remain
after the touch of time
the time of touch.


He survives
by eating the apple of arrogance
in his heart.

Since there is nothing to inspire
going on
he builds the stubble of the wind
into a Windsor of the mind.

He walks in smug humility
fixed on his secret wealth
like a miser's cellar of gold,

Like a people
slaughtered and expelled
from every land
who must be
to be anything


White Queen

flying across landscapes
in creamy Celica
gathering green petals

scarlet hunting cap
shades steady eyes
reading the road
her riding britches
curved to bucket seat
at the same high angle
whereof I took her
early this morning

her sweet ass sporting
my right hand's imprimatur


crossing the shore's last ledge
the sea-floor dropped away
a lonely swimmer over the abyss

I hadn't felt her hand
sustaining me
until she vanished in the spray and mist
and I was struggling
simply to exist

For Allen

you were always among us
close as bodies
at a love-in

great man
in a thrift-store suit

a sheltering force
at protests, picket-lines
waving the colors of life

now we feel

yet your poems
still connect us
to starry dynamos

roaring with laughter
your spirit strides
with Walt

among whose gentle lilacs
your brash sunflowers

For Richard Elman

I envied your genius
you envied my pension
I've lived a little longer
and I'm living now, but

not as well

             For Ginger

Tooling about
in her massive shell
with clanking gears
and roaring mill

This tender creature
seen naked only
by night
bathing in hot tubs

Is found mostly
by the shore
collecting tidal residue
of crab-claws and fish bones

Pushing poems
on oniony curls of thermo-fax
out the window
of her four-wheeler.


molecular finesse
of switching masks

stalking us
in beloved arms

we have come full circle
when death meets us
at the source of life

piecing the cell
the gene

where flesh enfolds
in coded covenant
the Torah of the living DNA
the double-twisted rosaries of self


Somewhere along the line
I lost the course

Buried in storm-surge
helmed exploding surf
Searching for way points
Stars, magnetic force
Followed by furies from rebuff to rout
Snarled in medusan tangles of remorse

Continued to index, scale, reference, refine
Thinking I had the answers

Had the time.

Laughter with Carole

This laughing
and kissing
my head
and speeds the blood
in my arteries
like subways
at rush hour.

O therapy!
O therapist!

This poor old heart
is beating a bongo
dancing the samba
across Central Park.


I loved you in heat of skin
edge of bone
strength of shoulder
mound of hip
and very groove of spine.

The flesh of marriage, ripped
its shreds and rags
bleed in gutter streams.

Speech, that is spirit
and flesh
that sanctified our union
extends no further bridge
for soul to cross with hesitant caress
in seeking love's
unbearable communion.


the sun
shuffles and deals
light and dark

a shaft
moving mazes
of foliage
spearing my eye

from trembling fronds
furious whispers
the skirt-lifting
of the breeze


in winter's early darkness
outside Mike's Garage
I surrender the keys to a weathered Nissan
and the credit card
to a new freedom

in wet and wind
last-minute reminders
of wipers
locking gas cap
headlight switches

I watch you
merge into
luster of heavy traffic
massed red tail lights

night and rain

Christmas Card

let us edge the green sorrow of the fir
with shimmering tinsel
luster of silver spheres

forget the deaths we have endured
fill the bright steins

there's Stan across the table
in Teresa's Polish restaurant
behind a three-years pane of ice

there are uncles and aunts
and cousin Burt who tried
to swipe my inheritance

now trudge through city snow
to the merriment of puppets
in Macy's windows, skirr

on glittering ice
in Central Park

four seasons
push the worn turnstiles
of incessant birth

and we impending ghosts
share with our children
the joy that turns to stone
but trembles in a certain light

Love Song

my freckled mate
I don my drool suit and clown cleats
not only to frisk your high school chassis
but for the Berooklyn blood smoke
and family candy

whisk us to indigo beach
in the electric boondocks
where slingshot seagulls
surf the paradigms

sing me those rip-rap blues
and baste some simperfish
O avacado mine
rub the mudblind
from my subway glass
and dunk my dandelion