The Rolling River

Bob Dylan and the ghost of Leonard Cohen
Sitting shivah on short stools
Yarmulke pinned to gray curly hair
Mourning Yossef’s son,
Who got in trouble with the law
Questioning authority
Challenging the establishment
Threatening the status quo.

Low murmured Hebrew and Yiddish,
Swaying like reeds on the sea,
Thoughts linger of sandle-less Socrates,
Served a hemlock cocktail
By the powerful men of Athens,
Condemned to die
For the high crime
Of corrupting the youth
By teaching them
To think for themselves.

The times are changing,
Time is nothing but change:
A rolling river that’s never
The same.

Leonard sits shivah
In the lotus position
Meditating mind breaths
And beneficent Buddha nature,
Serene smile thinking of
The high born privileged prince
Slowly discovering the three fold
Reality of the common world,
Informing the high born
Priests, warriors, and kings
That their stratified social system
Is a mind made illusion
Just like everything else they see.

Socratic Stoic Jews breaking bread
With Benedict Spinoza
Recalling the ship of Citium
Wrecked on the Grecian shore
Near Athens.
Loitering in Hellenic bookstores
Discovering the wise words of Socrates
That hemlock couldn’t kill,
Following the dogs to the porch,
Writing philosophical prescriptions
To alleviate the suffering
Of ill flowing lives.

After seven days
Bob and Lenny
Return the cushions to the chairs,
And uncover the bathroom mirror
As sunlight bursts through
A beat-up Venetian blind.

4/10-4/12/18

My 12th poem for National Poetry Writing Month.

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Kaddish for Karen Leys (1952-2018)

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Its so strange to think
That you’re not there
In that little house on Salem Avenue
Sitting on the couch
Quietly reading fantasy novels on your Kindle
While Dad watches NCIS,
As if you’d always been there
And always would,
While I sit here across the mountains
Hunched over a notebook
Writing til my hand cramps
Trying to make sense of it all.

Continue reading

Looking for Truth

You can look in your books,
Old and new,
Of beginnings and births,
Journeys and exiles,
Looking for truth
In a burning bush,
Or hanging on a Roman tree.

Search the history of time
For big bangs and clouds of gas,
Using probability and fuzzy logic,
Rationality and intellect,
Dialectic and dialogue,
Searching for truth outside the cave
In the depth of a black hole;
In the cry of a baby universe.

You can look inside,
Examine the depths of your soul,
For compassion and humility,
Poetry and purpose,
Knowing the only thing
You can truly know,
Controlling the only thing
You can truly control,
Be present
In the only moment you have,
Looking for truth
Under an Indian fig tree,
With an Athenian gadfly;
Between the pages of an emperor’s journal.

You can look outside,
At starving children on the streets,
At parents slaving to survive,
Living in quiet desperation
At the pleasure of the oligarchs
In the castle on the hill,
500 yards from urine stained crack houses,
6 miles from Robert E. Lee’s hoouse
And the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Looking for truth
In the eyes of a stranger
Or the hand of a friend.

11/13/98-12/28/17

 

Sophia

Oh, Sophia Shekinah,
Socrates-lover, Plato-Friend,
Maternal dwelling of the Logos.
Sefirah, emanating
From the crown of creation without end,
Wisdom, Understanding: Knowledge.
Understanding wisdom is knowing
That you know nothing.

6/7/17

Notes:
Shekinah (Hebrew:שכינה ) – Pronounced Sha-kee-nah. Literally “dwelling.” A Rabbinic term for the presence of God, held by some to be the feminine attribute of God. See more here.
Sefirah (Hebrew: סְפִירָה ) – Pronounced Se-fir-ah. Literally “emanation.” A term from Kabbalah. See more here.
Logos (ancient Greek λόγος) – Pronounced “low-gose,” which has been used as a term in Philosophy and Theology since the time of Heraclitus. See more here. I’ve written about the Logos previously.

Holy Messengers

Angels Ælfar Malakhim
Divine monsters, messengers of truth
Raven whispering in Yeshayahu’s ear.
Arriving in flaming wheel flying saucers,
Transmitting visions into Y’chezqel’s optic nerves.
Fiery Seraphim Ljósálfar,
Flaming sword and mighty scrolls,
Straddling the border between
This world and the otherside,
Underside, beyond the west wind.

4/25/17

Pronunciation Key/Notes:
Ælfar = Ale-far (Elves)
Malakhim (מַלְאָךְ‎‎ ) = Mal-a-keem (Hebrew for “messengers,” which was translated into Greek as “ángelos” from which we get the word “Angels”
Yeshayahu (יְשַׁעְיָהוּ) = Yesh-a-ya-hoo (Hebrew, usually translated in English as “Isaiah”)
Y’chezqel (יְחֶזְקֵאל ) = Y’chez-kel (“ch” as in Bach) (Hebrew, usually translated in English as “Ezekiel”)
Seraphim (שְׂרָפִים ) = Ser-a-pheem (Hebrew, meaning “Burning Ones”)
Ljósálfar = l-juice-al-far (Light Elves)

Poem #27 for National Poetry Writing Month (aka #NaPoWriMo)

Is This What We Were Chosen For?

 

Cemeteries desecrated,
Headstones toppled and smashed.
Even in death unable to escape
The irrational genocidal hatred,
Even laying in our graves
You can’t just let us be.

Communities threatened across the land,
Threats and nothing more, save anger and fear.
Is this a game? Or a rehearsal?

Nero fiddles as adviser Antiochus
Readies the swine to sacrifice
Atop the Temple Mount,
And fires up the furnaces
To burn more than just Rome.

Empty words echo from
The Capitoline hill,
Does the Reaper need to appear
Before Caesar and the Senate act?
Or would even that move them
If it were merely the life of a Jew?

Rachel is inconsolable
Eyes puffy and red,
Cheeks wet and raw,
Cut by the tracks of her tears
Cried for those who are no more.
From dawn to dusk she cries out
Yet there is no answer.
From sunset to sunrise she weeps
Blanketed by the black of the night,
Her only question: Why?

2/27-2/28/2017

Walking After Midnight

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I go walking after midnight
Stepping softly while the seminary sleeps.
Haunting Hogwarts halls alone
With the ghost of Rabbi Heschel
Standing in stocking feet.

Hank Williams echos in my head
As the quiet reverberates through
The sanctuary of the empty shul.
The silence is deafening.
No bushes are burning.
Am I here all alone?

I came here looking for something,
For meaning, for direction,
The comfort of tradition, rituals, structure and law.
And truth.
I came here looking for truth.

2/6/17

Notes:
“Shul” is pronounced “shool” and is the Yiddish term for a Synagogue.

The image at the top of this post is the logo of the Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC and is meant to represent the burning bush that God spoke to Moses through in the book of Exodus.

Walk into the Night

Walking around the college campus
For health and fresh air,
Away from the welfare lines
Contemplating the soul of a billionaire

Past the waste reclamation plant,
Tumbleweeds roll past a dying tree,
Leonard Cohen whispers in my ear
About the nature of American democracy.

The Bitter sweet aroma of fresh hops
Waft over from the local brewery,
In the alleys huddled masses know the fear
Shared by nineteen-thirties European Jewry,

Gypsies, Homosexuals and trade unionists,
Soon to be murdered and in ovens burned.
After all that happened back then,
You’d think somebody would have learned.

Walking back toward the office,
Bread-lines coming into sight,
Trying to think of reasons not to
Disappear Tom Joad into the night.

11/25-11/28/16

Portrait of the Poet

 

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New York, Long Island, East Rockaway lived,
Oceanside born.
Oregon Trail traveled for opportunity, better education and family,
Through Baker City and over the Cascades, past the volcanoes,
Willamette Valley, Albany raised,
Liberty, Sunrise; Waverly Elementary, North and West Albany educated.
Army joined at 18 because no Circus in town.
Missouri, Indiana trained; Geissen, Germany assigned.
San Antonio, Alamo transferred; Honorably, Army Commendation Medal discharged.

Tampa, South Florida studies in religion (synagogue and university),
Hurricanes, hanging chads, holocaust museums and heartbreak,
Flew the coupe, Pennsylvania delayed, mistakes were made,
New York, Morningside Heights seminary studies,
Torah, Talmud, ukuleles and self reflection,
Roaming rambling, Exodus ending,
Old friends Albany, old traps escaping,
’round the bend in Redmond married, fatherhood purpose,
Poet voice searching, Notebook scribbles filling,
Keyboard keys editing, computer blog posting,
Audience friends finding, crazy head calming,
Poem now ending.

11/8/16

Abram

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Splintered pieces of broken idols
And shattered gods litter the floor
At your feet.
The axe, its handle still damp
From your sweaty palms,
Rests in unliving hands.
Your father’s eyes look on
In confused horror and fear.
Your last question
Remains unanswered.

November 2005

Based on the fairly well known midrash from the Talmud  (Genesis Rabbah 38.13), which you can read here.