Art by Itzik Rennert
It governs a slice of the Solar System,
but eludes our ten-thousand parabolic eyes.
stomp away at its mention.
Its trail is subtle: small lapses
of astral etiquette,
a suspicious huddle of objects
in the boondocks of space.
It prefers to remain an idea,
a retractable thought.
Astrologists clap their hands in grief:
no chart can unravel
why someone would wake up one April morning
with shoes full of ash,
or how happiness can visit a mirror
while cities fall apart.
If you find yourself beyond Neptune,
chilled by a skeletal nudge,
it’s that furthest of sentries,
correcting your drift with an outsider’s wisdom,
keeping its stories to itself.
Sodom and Beyond
They crossed a line
in Swinging Sodom.
We’ll have their bottom.
Lot tosses in
prime, private cuts:
his daughters’ thin,
The sky ignites
and falls on cue.
Lot’s wife, too dumb
for Godly things,
will now become
The old world burns.
Reserve is dead.
The girls take turns
in daddy’s bed.
what matters. Bless
this darkened cave,
this holy mess.
In another universe I never write this poem.
I decide to leave well enough alone,
to speak only when speech is needed.
A universe like our own: the same mold on the ceiling,
the same nest of cables asleep on my desk,
the same spooled laughter from the other room.
How I’d like to reach across, and question him:
Larry, why did you stop? What absolved you?
Did you finally work it out?
And did you see it too, today, on the way home from work?
The same red flowers under dry and arched weeds,
rocking, beaming from an unkempt yard?
Did you let it in? Did it devour you?
Did you reach the bottom where all is true,
and has no name, and doesn’t die?
The poor of your city and the poor of another town –
the poor of your own town have prior rights.
– Talmud: Mas. Baba Metzia 71a
Your city’s poor first
but surely there’s someone yet closer
in your house
a child robbed of attention
a wife reduced to talking to herself
and closer still
shuffling along your soul’s most rusted streets
subsisting on expired memories and discarded hope
sleeping in doorways
rummaging through the waste-piles of a life
Spare them a moment
they are the ghosts of your choices
when you stumbled ahead
they stepped selflessly aside
Epistle to Yemen
Brothers, we knew
this was coming. The prophets
Untruth hates the truth. And so
we eat dirt daily,
are trampled, befouled.
But consider the beauty,
the lasting bounty
of a stubborn heart.
Identity is not a coat
to wear in winter
and discard by spring.
Your descendants will praise you
while our enemies fume.
There is no better outcome.
God honors resilience.
We were cherry-picked to suffer
Nothing in my life has made this easy:
I stole bread from a boy at Sobibor.
Death had already marked him. Two days later
I saw crows ripping strips from his side.
I sprinted through the forest
on that day when all went wrong,
outran the dying, for a long time didn't die.
I've been kind on occasion – my family will testify.
When happiness came it was the ordinary kind:
friends and women, my children whose innocent trust
would pierce my heart. You who weren't born
to question man's alliance with the sun
may judge me. But remember this:
you judge yourself as well.