Scenes From A Fractured City: Six Poems

Hevria writers were challenged to write long pieces of 4000 words. While I have two long form pieces in the works, my everyday life got quite busy here at the end of the school year with final papers, exams, and grading. Because I tend to write every day, I always have multiple pieces to tinker with. So in the spirit of posting a long piece, I put together this collection of six poems that were nearest completion, worked on them, and now present them here to you. Note of sensitivity: Two of these poems deal with suicide.

Morning Ritual

Everything
is about to
turn over.

Alter

of earth, of dust,
mere starstuff
obliging to
raise myself

higher.

Teffilin,

the susurrus dance,
dervish circling
of leather
binding flesh
and spirit,

naming
the infinite
home.

Cafecito

But first
cafecito’s
dark kiss.

Fine ground
fertile soil
of dank earth
chicory aromas
fills the funnel of our
aluminum cafetera –
same as Babbe’s,
the ancient one
that never tarnished,
unlike ours blurring
all reflection.

Anything that tastes
this good demands
the kind of patience
this process requires.

In the time of waiting,
the world spins
away from the shame
of our mistakes
of purposeful
forgetting
and continues to
navigate a route
around the sun
without hesitation.

The first essential drops
are slow poured
into the yielding sugar
beaten into the sweet
syrupy base over which
you tip the spout slowly,
careful to maintain
a luxurious frothy layer,
the delicate espuma,
the very breath
of the cafecito’s
birth in this cup
lifted to your mouth.

And nostalgia mourns
in the light of morning

like the first bittersweet
touch on the lips:

hot.

Interlude: One More Day

Some put them off
one more day
every day.

Answers to questions.

Highway home:
the barrier wall,
if it will hold.

By a river
beyond the road:
if the instinct
to endure is stronger
than the bit of will
left to survive,

and if the strength
of that instinct
versus that lack of will
against the water’s
constant pressure

will hold.

And then we blink
and keep driving
and keep bouncing
our head to the tunes
and keep our eyes
on the road ahead.

We Ask If He’s Jewish

Fancies himself a street poet of sorts,
but no one knows him as such,
the way he drops scraps
like seeds, hoping
some of the fancy birds will
stop flying long enough
to pick up the shreds
of his thoughts and read his
scribbled overwrought verses
and want more.

“salubrious breaths
whisper in the fronds
of the tree reaching
from your soul
to root into mine”

Find him spelunking
downtown streets
without direction or conscious care,
without a clue what to think or do.

Scribble, scribble, scribble
wherever the muse pursues him.
Painted faces pass him by
wearing masks of glassy eyed
satisfaction, spent and drained
and still eating all the afternoon sun
they believe shines clearly just for them.

“I began here in
contractions,
bent dimensions,
nothing, nowhere
near as close
to clarity or truth
as your smile”

With a nod of affirmation
we wind him up in leather
and tie him to his Torah
through memory more than history,
through knowing more than owing,
and as usual the tears come
as soon as “Shema Yisrael…”

He peers at us from under
heavy lids from far away
as he digs his hand into
his pocket to extract
a sweaty stub of led
and a dirty thermal roll
of receipt paper
disabused of all conceit,

where he commences
to draft brief verses into
a new cartography
of his expanding heart.

Bulk Day

Vultures out again
parking their pickups
around the neighborhood,
digging through refuse,
detritus left curbside
the day before bulk day:
child’s lawn chair,
dresser of broken drawers
colored with irrevocable
maps of a childhood
on the wane, a lampshade
atop a plastic mini-basketball
hoop bent and bowed under
the weight of memories
too heavy to carry,

like the heft
of a grown boy
at the end of a rope
in a dark closet
of a hidden life
exposed.

Screams, such screams
cleave the night
with the shock
of a tower of diamonds
cutting through the heavens
in the numb anguish
of the immutable,
while careful hands
bear an abridged life
down the driveway
to the waiting van
parked on the berm,
and the neighbors wake
to find madness and grief
breaking into a night
they find unbearable

in the midsummer swelter,
the air oversweetened
with blooming jasmine.

Infinity Box

Standing up
is not just
not sitting.

We’ll take all
our steps together.

We are unwavering,
we are unassailable
movement in the depths
of our comingled desires.

Here is my heart:
an infinity box
spoken into being
in a language of
our own cadence
shaping the silence
of our longing
into a song
emanating
from the center
of the universe
just for us.

Waving a flame
is not just
burning:
light lights light.

We transcend
symbols and
metaphors
and tap into
the unknown
with the mere
strength of our
shared belonging.

We don’t define
something by
what it is not:
our love saves the world
one breath at a time.

You are here because
you are the only answer
you are looking for.
Found in us.

Pay attention.

Stay with me,
burn for me –
before us
are unending
tomorrows.

 

 

Image from Flickr.