Litowa Moonlight

Forty years ago in Litowa moonlight
I saw myself a naked ape and laughed…
Fever of unknown origins had held me
four days in its sweaty embrace and loosed

my bowels innumerable times so
I staggered from the hut in search of wide
green leaves and staggered weakly back again –
this night as I returned I saw outline

of my dim shadow in African dust,
recognized the naked fellow alive
at the pleasure of chance as my own self
and began to laugh under the full moon

alone near the border with Mozambique
and how I laughed under that huge moon

In The Time Of Gaza, 2009

Compromised Land

Because promises can’t be relied upon,
I’m trying to trade in the Promised Land
for compromised land –I know glamor’s less
with this kind of earth, but we’re so many…

I will compromise with most anyone
about most anything – even in this
I’m less than absolute, but let us now
negotiate night after night while stars

that can’t hear bitter biting words progress
through the heavens and the constellations
change so we can’t be assured where we are –
let’s argue until the guns and tanks rust

I’m ready to settle compromised land,
let a new vocation find my right hand

We Should Not Seek

We should not seek instruction in cruelty
from our enemies: they have much to teach,
but the greater danger is that our joy
is in what avid learners we can be

How to turn away from such dread pursuit,
how to make peace with needing to make peace,
how to grasp how close glory and gory
live to each other, how to find splendor

in giving up the magnificent hopes
that have let us feel that we might matter –
cruelty and vanity, conspirators
in glistening armor, old, old allies

They urge that what’s slight in us, what’s tender,
slights us, so we must be pride’s defender

New Year’s Eve 2008

I’m having trouble losing myself in
anything at all – books, music, sex, crime,
drugs and dreams are of no use, I remain
some thing slung about my neck, a presence

like an albatross, more faithful even
than my shadow for I stay with me when
there is no light, I hug through all the days
and all the nights, I have nothing to say

There’s nothing rare in this extremity,
I can’t help imagining it’s common
even if most don’t choose to notice it,
how we keep ourselves clinging company

It’s New Year’s Eve and the old show rolls on
I’m found, this that collars me is no con

Let Me Explain What Evolution Shows

Let me explain what evolution shows:
lack of curiosity killed the cat –
the hunter must always keep on hunting,
pry under each rock, never trust, disdain

the obvious, overcome all smugness
with sheer restless energy that’s mental
and physical both; the cat that survives
must endure appearing foolish not just

to others but to himself – let them laugh
all they want, living’s no laughing matter
and when this cat sleeps his dreams do not rest
but sort follies in other dimensions

cat that’s not curious is goner cat
this is exactly the place that we’re at

So Quietly Did Fox Cross Yesterday

So quietly did fox cross yesterday
our path in wet woods, the white dog never
lifted her nose and I thought it was brown
silent apparition from a lost dream

But it so beguiled me, this noiseless fox,
it appeared over and over again,
just one fox become many mind foxes,
soft shades of brown, aristocratic tails.

Unforeseen encounter, intense pleasure,
antidote to the surprise of terror,
fox up on his paws, off on an errand
through fragrant pines in the mid-winter rain.

We’re just as likely to be lost as found
When dream of fox turns up on waking ground

I’m Already Older Than I Can Grasp

I’m already older than I can grasp
and getting older still, breath by breath and
beat by beat, nothing to be done, but go
on going on, try to find melody

In the succession of my own moments,
how they slip away and take me with them,
even as they leave me at once behind
and ahead, dazed and dazzled, old and new

Yes, there’s the riddle, that though I’m older,
I come in each instant alive anew,
fresh and free in my own slight company,
perhaps more frail but unbroken yet

I know my destiny, that not to be
is being’s end, soon, too soon – old story

Like Wingless Feathers Of A Million Swans

Like wingless feathers of a million swans
the snow comes floating down, lands and nestles,
silence in silence, extending whiteness
far and wide: that I’ve seen this before, seen

It more than once, seen it as a child, seen
it as a young man, an older one, too,
only serves to make it mysterious
in marvelous ways, a stranger sameness

Of white on white and silence in silence,
one I watch transfixed as the gray cat does,
witness a process I have watched before
at other revolutions of our globe

The quiet of snow falling, sentiment
Of beauty’s enduring nearness, swan sent

The Ones We Know Best Are So Hard To Know

The ones we know best are so hard to know,
slip through our fingers as we ourselves do
as water does, as worth does, as wish does,
as love does when we try to bestow names.

The ones we know best are so hard to know
for they become for us habits only –
we look and look away and think we still look
when we have moved on to distract ourselves

The ones we know best are so hard to know,
because knowing is always risk and we
abhor risk because it’s our undoing,
the silver snake slithering through green grass

This is no latitude for empty gaze,
Labyrinth where we ourselves amaze

Brains In A Bucket On A Cloudy Day

Brains in a bucket on a cloudy day
black lab tops under fluorescent light
“This once was a particular person!”
I don’t shout, but pry gently, with fingers

Pink, blunt, huge, sausages that dwarf thinking,
a process once extant but now extinct
in the pale tissues being dissected
in the search for structures, tracts, commissures

This was all matter of fact long ago,
staying with me as matter of wonder,
sequestered somewhere in my gray matter,
just like what lay in those buckets that day

Rain fell and spring thunder came and sweet scent
Smoothed away what brains in a bucket meant

Each Day Your Being In This Broken World

Each day your being in this broken world
you repented and invented in the same breath,
struggle proceeding without theory,
only in practice, with awkward actions

I watched, not knowing what I watched or why,
you confused me, because you repented
your invention of me, too, as if I’d
be better not to be, better with you

At a safe cold distance so that your plight
couldn’t contaminate me, except that
you had an instinct, too, for warmth, so I
was drawn closer and closer to you

So close that sometimes in dreams I was you
Unaware of myself as someone new

In Memory Of David Victor Lewin, 1912-2002

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