I stand on an open plain
With sleet angling into my mouth.
The fur of my parka is no match for it.
It is morning. Gray.
It is cold, deeply chilled.
I have a warm knot in my stomach
from two shots of vodka.
My hosts tell me millions died here—
We call it World War Two but that is a luxury of nomenclature, viewed from a distance.

Here it is alive, seventy years young, the Great Patriotic War.
On this plain hundreds of tanks rolled and roiled.
On this plain, men ran behind tanks, among the exploding shells.
On this plain, men got frostbite inside bunkers where there was no tea.
On this plain, airplanes and bayonets killed all the soldiers once they had killed all the farmers and their children.
On this plain was fought the Battle of Kursk that lasted nine months.
Ask the children in Kiev, and in Berlin, who never knew their fathers.

I stomp the ground. I feel my feet, from a distance.
How can you understand Russia unless you stand here,
Listening to the nothingness?

My son is ten years old.
He is climbing over the burned shell of a tank.
After seven decades they still are here,
rusting witnesses to uncomprehending history.
The bodies long ago have rotted into the ground,
their grave markers are metal turrets, seeming toys.
What do my hosts think of us, standing here speechless,
warmed strongly by ice cold vodka,
while my child climbs the jungle gyms of death?

Numbers of people have no meaning in Russia.
History is a thousand years long gone
And a thousand years yet to come.
This plain has eaten them, chewed them, digested them, deposited them like dung on top of the frozen earth.
What is left is tanks.
And sleet and wind.
Here, have another drink.



The boy in the heat
Swatted our flies, shoved away the other boys,
We were his charge.
When they begged he yelled,
Threw rocks,
Took us down alleys between rows of mud huts on stilts.
He took our wave of the hand as a benediction,
He could not be waved away.
We had not sought his help, his protection, yet
He selected us because – why?
Were we so vulnerable, so gullible, so foreign?
He pointed us to shops we did not enter,
Down streets we feared to walk.
He spoke to us in a tongue we could not decipher.
We replied in French to no avail.
To the side, Taureg men in blue robes looked past us.
When we raised a camera, all in front of us held out their hands.
Returning to the bus, the boy pressing close
Hands cupped in front of him:
Payment for service?
We had contracted for none.
We stared ahead, avoided eyes and cries for recompense.
Seated inside, awaiting others,
He banged and punched the side of the bus,
Loud deep metallic echoes filled our space
And we stared ahead and then
As he lept to beat on our window
I turned in anger, glared through the glass
And cursed in a tongue he did not understand with words he could not hear,
Until our driver stepped outside and chased him with his boot,
Screaming child, bloodied, how old,
Eight I guess,
Running with no shoes.


Across the Sehel
Cursing in Arabic
The Army of France
Shooting anyone who moved.
Plastic bags snarled in the brush
Filled like balloons with the hot dry wind,
Masking, in this land of masks,
The man with the gun
Screaming in rage,
Shaking a fist,
Firing his rifle at the heads of the soldiers,
Seeking recompense for years unfulfilled,
Demanding a reason.
Spitting blood on the sand
Falls the young man
Falling falling dying,
Dying with no shoes.


Appartements meuble a Bamako
In high demand, I am told, by
My computer who would not lie to me.
Risk free, no credit card to reserve, lock in great prices,
Sleeps six for 219 USD.
For the week.
In Manandoroni, not too far from the Niger
Near to Diatoula, and
Replete with flat screen television
For the discriminating tourist
Who might prefer not to venture out too often
Here in the land of no shoes.

The Marriage

It is hung as wet laundry on the line,
drying off in the sun,
caked with silt driven by the wind
deep into the fibers, gray-brown to the eye
and gritty to the touch.

There is blood in the edges
where the bleeding could not be stemmed
as the wound was too wide, and infected,
which explains the yellow splotches
surrounding the burnt red stain.

You cannot reach it to haul it in, it waves over an abyss
and the wheels that crank the cord inward
are frozen with amber rust
in unintended echo of the bloody fabric
now swinging in a flat sheet against the wind.

I stripped it, long ago, off her mind,
bearing as it did the scars of many injustices,
disrespects, unfair assumptions,
self-sustaining prejudices, angered impulses,
detritus of three decades together, and at war.

She moves naked now, her maimed mind exposed
to the view of unseen witnesses.
She is so long oppressed that she does not care.
Shame is an alien concept, inconsequential
as the dirty linen of her life, stiff and sullied in the wind.

I am reminded of what I have contributed,
committed, convened, convoked, concocted, created
while looking straight ahead at my own road.
Sometimes, glimpsed realizations are revealed in pain
which leads me simply to deny. She used to tell me, but now we do not speak.

Walt Disney

I wanted a family like Walt Disney might create.
Or Norman Rockwell.
Or some 1950s television show.
Such nicety is scorned today, hallmark of a co-opted mind
it is my mind’s view.

And small children mold to the form,
their instincts are simple, pure and sweet
and predictably selfish in places I was pleased to sate.
We laughed, cried, fought, puffed proud at each accomplishment
sent them at great cost out into the world.

Now they are spread by miles and decades
Across an America we do not know,
suffering in our own silences as we cannot understand
or have the power to say what we think
the ciphers we have become.

We are polite strangers who feel from memory
for each other’s pain and, when I die, I am sure they will truly cry
for what we have been in the past and, in part, for what we were supposed to have been
we are in the end wandering among the children we thought we loved.

But there is no love in the world, only the idea of it
and no idea can love. Which is why we are so achingly alone.

Money Money Money

Want it need it had it lost it
Chased it pocketed it
Invested it divested it
Bought me stuff and people too.

Honey honey honey
Want it need it had it lost it
Chased it, ate it
Ingested it regurgitated it
Got me stuff and people too.

Bunny bunny bunny
Want it need it had it lost it
Chased it effaced it
Constructed it deconstructed it
Got me stuff and people too.

Money honey bunny
Wanted them needed them had them lost them
Injected them rejected them
Huffed puffed roughed the stuff and people too.

How much money does my honey bunny
Need to clutch inside her hutch.
Money really is very funny
Buying people, buying stuff.
Money drizzling down all runny
Slimy to the mouth and touch.

May Day 2018

Space is zero as it drips
down the leg of time,
the same thing they say but
what do they really know?

I was thinking, in my body
as my mind refused. It was
a passing thought that passed,
gone down the line, without me.

Green shoots pushed yellow flowers through the gravel.
A scouting expedition from the underworld.
What could they see? Soles? Sky? Tomorrow?
Each petal an obelisk to time.

There was a moment
or there were moments, I am not sure,
but then again, are you, and of what?
I have lost my thread. I unravel.

Not much is what it seems as it depends, they say, on where you are standing.
That involves a place in space, so
I must concur that
it does depend, if at all, upon when you are standing.

Gray stone and green shoots, yellow silly flower insouciant in the sunlight.
Where do they go at night?
I know they migrate because at night I cannot see them.
And they observe children concerning permanency of objects!

Mind heart eyes flower stone green
Space is time is space.
Does it matter it is Spring?
I am surprised, but I think it does not.


The essential nature of sunlight is a
challenging what I know.
This simple thing is not so simple.
The prism divides it
and so do the slats of my window blinds
and also it is parsed by my moods.

And it is not just one thing, you know.
It is muted or glaring,
warm or chill,
yellow or red or orange or brown.
It is cheerful with flowers,
annoying while reading,
unwelcome when I bury my mother on a sunny day.

Today I am chatting with the sun.
Chatting up the sun.
Hanging out in dialog with the sun.

Do I give offense to you, here in the open field,
my dialog seemingly the distracted rant of ill people
talking to you, talking to themselves, talking to an object, talking to no one?

There are things you are not allowed to see….
This daffodil is telling me its Spring is informed by this sunshine.
This ray is telling me its Spring is heralded by this flower.

They are talking
and I am answering in my way:
You are not included.
When it comes to me and the sun,
you simply are not to be involved.

Old Book of Rhymes Today

I found an old book of rhymes today.
The verses were graphite on yellowed pages
And they powdered in my hands at the edges as I turned them.

I was chancing through the attic
For the hundredth Springtime it seemed
In search of memories to discard
Before they filled the space completely
And robbed the present of its due.
I had just piled by the door
(as I had twice before, but this time I wouldn’t weaken no I’d really toss them out this time, God knows we need the room and all that junk a fire hazard too)
A panda bear with black-bead eyes
And an envelope of golden hair
And an earthen crock containing dusty pebbles
Along with that old flat beach ball—
They were all in a pile, I said, when what should I find
This old book of rhymes,
Stolen from some school I think,
Or just never returned—
Not mine, mind you (I always returned my books)
But sister’s perhaps—
And though there were no names in the front
On the white sticker
Pasted crooked inside the cover
There were writings everywhere else
And hearts
With first names inside
Inscribed innocently
(who knew what it meant, it was a giggle and an order sister and a dirty picture kept up in the tree
Without guile or implication.
They were childish rhymes,
Patriotic you know
But without embarrassment
About the Civil War
And Washington
And Joan of Arc.
I could hear them, memorized for hours by lamplight and
Being nervously recited the next day.
I hear the pauses, the “uhs” and the “I forgots” and then
The whishsh of the yardstick through the air,
The smart “sputch” of wood on palm,
The grimace,
The supressed howl that, if let out, cost five more.
Yes, an all-purpose book indeed
From which a single teacher could impart
And Bravery.

Ah, to memorize again long passages of rhyme,
Twenty lines for Mary but for YOU, Albert,
Bad boy for not firing the school furnace today,
Bad furnace monitor,
You can have forty lines
And be prepared to recite of course; of course.

Again I feel the drudging walk to school,
My rhyme book loosely tied onto my pack
In hopes of losing it—again,
Swinging the books by their belt
Far overhead,
Sending verses to heaven.

I put the book upon the discard pile
Not because I’m bitter mind you no but
After all
Old books take up so much room
And they’re a fire hazard too, you know….

Hooky in South Boston

What a sky there is today
That fluxes blue and white and gray
And merges colors as clouds play
Across the fields of heaven.

So now YOU bow down and pray
When winds of Spring sweep ME away
And lead my sinful thoughts astray
From dreams of perfect heaven.

Though clergymen always inveigh
that all boys must always obey
And study Holy Books all day
Lest they offend in heaven.

I maintain that God would say
In light of such a splendid May
That all should frolic in they hay—
To hell with thoughts of heaven.


Paradoxical Couplets

Children love a parade.
Old men an escapade.

Women like the fineries.
Young men prefer the wineries.

Girls gossip of boys.
Boys play with their toys.

Dogs dream of a tree.
I dream of thee.