Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Art of Reading

I fell into the book, walked into a scene,
met the characters and stayed until
one scene melded into another.
Did the writer need my input, want
to know what I thought of the pace?
I know it's not my book, not my
characters, not even my plot, but
I am your reader. I wear the mantle
of one character, argue with another, and
get my hands dirty digging in the garden
behind the sorcerer's house.
I even believe the unreliable narrator.
A request: Please add several more chapters.
I can't bear to leave.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Parsha Kedoshim

Listen Up

                     You shall not lie to one another
                           Leviticus 19:11

twist the words
tell it slant
distort how it went
couch what you say
err with the facts
mislead by omission
mystify with sleight of hand
cross your fingers
position yourself

Thursday, April 28, 2016


When do you get too old to dream
of the Orient  Express or completing
the Appalachian trail? At what point
do you put away your thought of
climbing Mt. Everest or learning
to scale granite rocks? Why settle
for a subway ride, or a walk around
a pond? Don't stop dreaming of
the Orient Express.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Don't Become a Pariah

Political correctness,
that starchy matron who shows up
when someone wants to make a point,
that blue blood who knows what's correct.
It once was easy-- wear the right button,
espouse the most liberal position,
accept no variance from that stance,
walk in marches and carry placards.
Now expand your definition--
beyond everything is political,
beyond stay away from my body
to don't criticize institutions
that are liberal or you're fermenting
unrest, dissension, discomfort.
Follow the rules, said and unsaid.
Don't critique.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Warning

Words are vessels
holding thoughts
Slight shifts
and worlds tilt
Engage with care

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Name David Means Beloved

                 David of the Bible
                 left his name-- a legacy
                 to future generations

My grandfather carried his name
to Ellis Island, but too many refugees
and thick accents altered names
His last name lost its ending
His first name, David, remained

My son- born two years after
my grandfather died- carries his name
It is written that a name carries divine energy
It is a thread that connects generations

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Plain Talk

years ago when people still smoked and the milkman delivered milk, although that was soon to end, i sat at a maple table and listened to folk songs, read scripture, and wrote longhand stories that ended up in a three-ring loose leaf binder that earned a place on a shelf with more three ring binders and remained there for years until i cleaned out all my old writings and decided that they were ready to be dismissed as irrelevant or at least bearing no relevance to the now of that time--

years ago when people argued about Vietnam i sat at a maple table and drank tea from a mug made by hand and read psalms with two women who quoted scripture without ever looking down , who spoke to Jesus every day, who gave money to missionaries in countries whose names i hardly knew, who supported translators who learned languages well enough to translate the bible into languages few people still spoke or read--

years ago i sat at a maple table and prayed aloud with women...
 i put my knees to the ground with these women
we simply spoke aloud
had a conversation, made requests,
gave thanks for prayers not yet answered

i miss the women
who pray aloud
 who talk to God

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Parsha. Acharei Mot

        laid out with care
the high priest
                      prepares the path,
a template
               for cleansing
in preparation
                     for atonement

Yom Kippur
        the high priest's
                of Holy Space
                      sets the scene
for transformation

later on
      another will forgive sins

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Reunion

Times happen when you just need
to lean back and rest in the Spirit,
you can't do more than let the
Spirit take charge, raise your
arms in praise, sing hallelujah -
dance and praise God. Let the
cymbals clatter, listen to the
chorus sing when the one who
left returns. Without words
you hug one another and
 meet at that place where
God's embrace holds you tight.
Close your eyes and forgive
the years, open your eyes
and know that it's time to sing.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Historian's Eye

                 Life can only be understood backwards;
                 But it must be lived forward.
                        Soren Kierkegaard

only tomorrow can we look at today
only today may I stare back years
pull pages out of calendars
settle loose sheets into a collage
sort through words, reconstruct
events and then remove layers,
 and chip away at mudstones

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Simple Prayer

let me sit on a rock
and feel the sun settle on my face
let me find a path to walk
and feel the road guide my feet
let me touch the earth
and feel her heartbeat
let me bow my head, bend my knee
and know God's grace

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Family Reunion

you're an onlooker in your own story
a bit player watching how it all plays out
standing offstage waiting for cue cards
listening for prompts, waiting for takes
on the next scene, looking straight ahead
at the props--a few chairs, a couch,
a stack of books and a folded newspaper,
the stage directions say, don't look back,
follow the script you're not writing

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Banquet

i never learned to host large gatherings, cook elaborate dinners, set a proper table, know how to engage the person on my left and the person on my right, remove dishes with precision, create a harmonious atmosphere, have after dinner conversation, engage in banter, be at ease in social settings nor did i learn those skills in my childhood home where save for my mother's mahjong group meeting in  our living room once a month i don't recall many guests and my mother not only was a uninspired cook but she also didn't care to cook

i never owned a toy oven or played with a tea set nor did i ever create elaborate plays that involved dinner guests and the few times i attempted to stage a gathering for six or seven or eight people i found it quite anxiety provoking and couldn't find appropriate recipes so my history of playing the hostess is limited and not a position i gravitate to

years ago i belonged to a large book group and come christmas we had a pot luck dinner at our house where the only thing i provided were nacho appetizers created in the microwave while the rest of the food was brought by the members and they knew whether they were to bring salads, main dishes, desserts or appetizers      after dinner we gathered to discuss the book  and prior to dinner we had made name tags with the names of luminaries in the arts --high brow and low brow and people walked around asking questions which could only be answered yes or no as they attempted to find out whose name they carried on their back and it all made for a lively discussion without the awkwardness of generating conversation with your table partner

about three weeks ago i received a call from a relative asking if they could have a family dinner here and they will prepare all the food and this isn't just any food this is a passover sedar and i don't celebrate passover anymore so I don't have any of the ritual objects but that too wasn't a problem and when i said that we don't have lots of pots nor do we own a roasting pan since we don't eat meat they planned to cook elsewhere and bring the food here

we must borrow chairs from the church, bridge tables from friends, figure out how to seat seventeen or eighteen people not worry about our new wood floors or area rugs hope for nice weather and be gracious and possibly meet three people we've never met before and see someone we haven't seen for decades although that is up in the air

frankly i'd rather go out for an informal dinner that has a more defined beginning and end

i know that i should be looking forward to this family gathering but i've become somewhat of a curmudgeon, a denizen of a social backwater unless it's around two or three or possibly four people  so it is with more than a smidgen of anxiety that i await Friday's festivities


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Parsha Metzora

           Metzora, a contraction of motzi rah--
             " one who spreads slander".

Those white spots,
visible or invisible-- signs to remind us of our
need to change. Perhaps we pass on
 gossip thinking it a delicacy,  or our tongue
alters the truth --substituting a better story.
Those white spots may have double meanings,
for some it's a disease of the skin, but for others
the disease resides in words with barbs.

Leviticus 13-15

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Best

The local luncheonette served ice cream
and egg creams at a counter,
while breakfast and lunch patrons ate
iconic food at mock leather booths.
My favorite-- B.L.T. on white bread over lightly,
served by a waitress whose red nails
clacked on the plate rim

The  candy store, that emporium of delight,
made the best egg creams, stored long salty
pretzels in a jar, sold  Breyer's Dixie cups,
and penny candy. I loved wax lips, smoked
candy cigarettes, savored dots, and
stuffed myself on Jujubes. I chewed
wads of  Bazooka bubble gum hoping to
blow a bubble big enough to
win a bubble blowing contest.

Prompt: favorite place to dine


Friday, April 15, 2016


who has not visited loneliness
in the midst of the clamor of a city,
or in the midst of a crowd--
who has not tasted a bitter word
or wondered what to say, yet
who has not tasted rain
or balanced on cobble rocks
or inhaled the aroma of spring
and not experienced intimacy

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time Out

turn clocks to the wall
shred calendars
then settle down
and chew a pencil
write from what's in your soul
forget about being careful,
smash dishes, let your
language flow unhindered
write about things that itch
don't be proper, let loose

Prompt: write a time out poem

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A Holy Moment

Cherita sits in her wheelchair, too spastic
to pick up the communion bread--
an attendant wipes her mouth after
she's fed sanctified grape dipped bread--
a menu of pictures and words taped to a tray
allow her to communicate simple wishes
while her words remain buried beneath
a series of sounds that have neither
consonants or vowels--
on Sunday, Mary, gets up and walks
to the wheelchair, Mary who attends
Sunday Fellowship services,
 where some have language,
 where some can read,
where they learn about God's love
Mary bends down, places her hand
on Cherita's back and listens,
and then interprets what she hears
"Cherita's says," she says

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Arcane Words

My father loved slapstick comedy and cowboy movies. What a curious combo for someone who also loved arcane words and read historical tomes. One moment he spoke to me about Thucydides and Josephus, then asked if I knew anyone who was a phlyarologist. The question sent me on a word search since reading Thucydides was too heady and didn't compare to re-reading Alice in Wonderland. 

And Alice in Wonderland introduced me to the concept of suspending disbelief years and years before I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge's words about the ability of a writer to cause the reader to willingly suspend belief -- even when the tale is fantasy.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Art of a Painting

my painting feigns realism
yet it doesn't meet
the criteria for abstraction
or surrealism or expressionism--
my colors, often too bold,
may not complement one
another and my lines suffer
from a lack of assertiveness,
i seek the essence, but often
settle for a primitive rendering

Prompt: write a defensive poem

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Parsha Tazria

Maternity Leave

                                  Leviticus 12

before we ever thought of it
the Lord knew the need
to rest after birth,
to be free of obligations,
 to avoid pressures,
and then in time life
would resume with all its
shoulds and should nots
it's knots and pace
but for a short while
a woman was exempt

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Different Times

I remember when I hid
beneath a wide brimmed hat
at Gay Pride parades,
erased my last name
on stories and poems
published in lesbian journals,
savored magazines not sold
in mainstream bookstores,
whispered the word lesbian,
 hid in the closet at work,
 wore the uniform--
plaid shirts,
work boots
 and one ear cuff
on my right ear,
became adept at hiding

Prompt: write a hiding poem

Friday, April 08, 2016

A Mark

when an artist allows a line
to find its own way, to follow
the seam in a rock, to savor
the hollow between hills, to
trace the contour of a lover's
face, to pursue the way a tree
stretches or a wave holds its
shape, the line turns into
a metaphor

Prompt: a doodle poem

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Urban Buildings

my neighborhood of city
buildings six floors high
on a street with six trees
embedded in dirt squares
surrounded by concrete
where we played potsy
and ring-o-levio under
the watchful eyes of
window watchers--
city buildings with supers
who swept hallways, fixed leaky
faucets and took care
of the incinerators--
my building where
on steamy summer nights
when the air inside didn't move
folding chairs appeared outside--
and the older people smoked
and kids played double dutch
and we waited for a breeze

Prompt:  Urban ( blank) fill the blank in with your own word

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

An Ancient Artifact

Cracks and peeling paint turn into
a prehistoric horse, a petroglyph
on a city wall until concealed
by fresh plaster and paint
Beneath the covering
a horse waits

Prompt : write an ekphrastic poem.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

A Snapshot

life, i think, is layer upon layer of snapshots--
we sat in a movie theatre, close enough
to see the creases in the screen, and watched a film
set in the forties when women wore ruby red lipstick
and painted their nails a deep Crimson color, when
women wore skirts and men doffed their hats--
we watched a mainstream movie, a sensual
story of love between two women-- one married
and the other younger, inexperienced
and snapshots appeared of a time when i knew
what it was to be married and finding that the skin
didn't fit, when clandestine meetings were part of life,
when we read books about those types of love,
"women who defied society", women who
wouldn't conform, who wore short hair, who dared

Prompt: write an experience film

Monday, April 04, 2016

A Marathon

How did this happen? Not only did winter make a surprise visit, but I forgot that April is National Poetry Month. That means that I read Robert Brewer's prompts and write a poem a day using his prompt. So I'll need to play catch up.Perhaps I can blame my tardiness on the inverted weather. So I'll engage in a marathon.

April 1st Prompt 1 -- write a foolish poem

a two toed sloth grew tired
of hanging upside down
and wished for wings
while a red winged blackbird
tired of flitting about
hoped to acquire fins
and goggles
they met in a thrift store
the two toed sloth wore
a pink harness and wings
from a Christmas pageant
The red winged blackbird
wore goggles and fins
The sloth climbed to a rafter,
jumped and fell
The red winged blackbird
jumped into the water
disturbed the goldfish
and began to choke
They sat down next to each
other and bemoaned
and groaned their fate
until the sloth told
the blackbird she was
beautiful and she told the
the sloth he was so agile

April 2nd. Prompt 2. Write a he said, she said poem


He said, "I want a corned beef sandwich."
She said, " I prefer a salad with a bit of tuna."
He said, " I like action movies."
She said, " I prefer a drama."
He said, " This won't work."
She said, " I never thought it would."
He thought her boring
She thought him dull
She took out a book and read
He watched a hockey game

April 3rd Prompt 3 Start with the word three and add a word or a phrase and write a poem

Three ways to Write a Poem

find cerebral images
and weave them into
deep and ponderous
statements about life

sit in the laundromat
and listen to people
talking to one another
write down their words

experience heartache
and plumb the depths
of your being for your
deep heartfelt feelings

Now to today-- April 4th. Write a distance


the distance between here and there
is measured in years, in time,
in seasons, the change of calendars,
the gray hairs, the wrinkles,
how many years did spring arrive
how many words were buried
will this distance last until time
is no longer measured

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Parsha Shemini

Now Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu,
each took his censer, put fire in it
and laid incense on it;
and they offered unholy fire
before the Lord, such as he
had not commanded them.
And fire came out
from the presence of the Lord
and consumed them,
and they died before the Lord.
--Leviticus 10:1-2


It seems so harsh, so beyond
what we find ordinary. It's about
boundaries,the ones God sets up.
It's a lesson, a quiet homily on fences ,
the restrictions of walls. We all have fire
within--which may strain and burn
like an inferno
unless contained.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Catching Up

Parsha Bereishit

In the beginning
Doesn't everything start
that way, an empty canvas
God takes out a blueprint,
sets the world in motion
with words--let there be-
day and night
a moon, a sun
streams and rivers
ponds and oceans
ferocious animals
burrowing animals
annoying gnats
flying insects, even asps
and places us in that
Garden of Delight
gives us the run of the place
God asks us one thing,
stay away from one tree
Then things go awry
There's a wily character
who cajoles Eve to taste
the fruit of the forbidden tree
And Eve then offers
her man Adam a bite
Every thing goes off track
They grab fig leaves
God sighs and asks for
an accounting. It doesn't take
long for finger pointing to begin.
Eve says the serpent started it—
then Adam blames Eve.
No one looks in a mirror
God sends them into the world
with skins to cover up
Was God more disappointed
that they ate the apple
or that they looked
for someone to blame?

Friday, April 01, 2016


I went to the library today and found four totally diverse books-- poetics, religion, and murder. Perhaps not to at odds with one another. The Bible contains poetics, religion, and murder. I think I'll start with Charles Bernstein's Pitch of Poetry-- an anthology of diverse ( there's that word again) voices all writing of pitch and echopoetics.

And that's the rub. What is pitch? "Pitch is the sound of poetry. But pitch is also the attack or approach. The angle."

Bernstein continues, " The value of a poem's pitch is not in the words but in what the words allow for a reader."

I want to learn, to expand, to write one really good line. A line that will resonate.

I think of the carny worker who makes a pitch to the audience-- to enter the tent and watch the fire-eater devour a blazing cone of fire , the rubber man do contortions and the sword swallower devour a warrior scimitar.

Is that what the poet does? In a sense yes. I think the poet lures the reader into words and metaphors-- a place of sleight of hand-- and invites the reader to engage. But not every poet or every poem offers its reader a sword swallower. Remember how you wondered if the sword really went down his throat and if so how?

I recall spending the entire ride from Coney Island to the Bronx engaged in a conversation with two friends about the people we saw in the sideshow. Not only did we wonder about their skills, but also what led them to a small storefront sideshow billed as the best sideshow in Coney Island. We believed the barker's pitch and were mesmerized.

Now to delve into The Pitch of Poetry.