Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Light is like cement:
Light really doesn’t care
About the sky’s intent.
Light is simply there.

Powdery as talcum,
Or piled high like snow,
At Herculaneum,
We watch it overflow

Empires and forts,
Footprints in the bath,
Leaving knowledge, of sorts.
Light is all we have.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Love Song

I’ll tell you why I kissed your eyes,
If you promise not to snore:
I want to put the candles out.
The darkness hides the door.

Let me go and put them out.
One moment and it’s done.
I’ve no desire to leave you, but
The wax is starting to run

Together with other moments.
I want these candles to last,
Because their light is perfect, and
Those pools of wax are vast.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kafka in the Bath

            In retrospect, I see there were signs that some sort of calamity was looming.
Something evil had invaded my sinuses. My head was throbbing. I felt out of sorts. Cumulonimbi hung over Queens. And, last night, according to NPR, a tornado struck a town south of Topeka, leaving one girl missing and ninety-four other residents dead.
            I was beginning to feel convinced that all of these events were related—that an inscrutable sky connected us all. I shut my eyes and I shuddered. Such a thought was almost too horrible to contemplate.
Of course, I might have seen it coming. I might have taken a few of those elementary precautions the Federal Government recommends. I might have duct-taped my windows. I might have taken a moment to caulk that fracture in the plaster under the sink. I might have signed up for extermination on the clipboard in the lobby. I might have been better prepared to receive such a guest.
And still, as I studied my visitor in the gray light as he slept—blind as a drunk movie star to the fragility of his existence—I wondered: Is a telegram really too much to ask?
Had a wire arrived from Prague in time, I would have done many things differently. I doubt that I would have attended graduate school, but I certainly would have taken an antihistamine before I went to bed. And I would have set my alarm for 6:30. And I would have brewed tea instead of coffee this morning—lapsang souchong, perhaps. Right now, I might be nibbling hamantaschen from my favorite Hungarian pastry shop, instead of telling a story.
I could see a million alternative futures radiating out from that absent delicacy: an apricot jelly horizon, where each sunbeam is made up of an infinity of crumbly moments, where each individual moment is more maddeningly delicious than the next.
If only he had called! We might have enjoyed a nice breakfast together and had a jolly good laugh.
He did not.
We did not.
Under the circumstances, I ask you: What else could I do?
I was tired. I had a headache. For a skull-splitting second, I shifted my eyes from the gigantic insect dozing in my tub toward my feet on the talcum-dusted bath mat.
With a sigh, I slid out of my right slipper. I lifted it above my head, carefully avoiding the shower curtain rod, while keeping one eye on Kafka.
            He would die in his sleep like my dreams.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Semester Abroad

Do you mind if I steal a fry?
I can’t believe you hated France.
Marie was a monster, I know, but I
Met Marcel there at a dance.

The lad was clad in the cutest suit
Created by God—pure Gaultier.
Nothing naughty, you know, or rude,
Just a smile and black beret.

He called me his ‘little cabbage head,’
Although I was dressed as a sailor.
It was electric when we kissed,
Sur la Tour Eiffel—the elevator.

I was a student in Paris that spring,
Seeing how love and champagne
Affected American students.
My roommate threw up in the Seine,

Much to the merriment of Marcel.
“Americans are all the same:
So serious about your work.”
Marcel imagined life was a game.

The touch of his tongue felt like a dream,
So I said I was going to stay.
I would cable my mom for the money,
In Manhattan, the following day.

The war was in its infancy
Then. The news from everywhere grim.
We listened to the BBC
And watched the City of Lights grow dim.

The elevator halted. We
Poked our noses through the cage:
Not even night was visible.
Nothing. Rien. This ghostly image

Pleaded with me to spend a week
Together on the Côte d’Azur,
Sipping sangria, and skipping classes.
He knew a Hôtel, very secure—

The Mirage, I think. It was pink—
About a stone’s throw from the beach—
Across the street—the Rue de la Paix,
Or la Rue. Perhaps the porch was peach…

Well, all I recall is that Tower,
And Marcel moaning in my embrace.
When Hitler restored the power, I
Wiped his lipstick off my face.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Close by a river called The Somme,
Unshaven and no longer young,
I smile at the sudden calm
And grasp a ladder. Rung by rung,

My eyes climb slowly from the trench.
Above the mud, the men—the curse
Hurled at the silence and the stench
Borne by the wind—I search for words

To describe the indescribable.
Words fail me when I reach the sky—
So bright, so beautiful, so blue.
I wish that I could tell you why.