Can People Change?

People can’t change
my father always insisted.
Fundamentally, he said,
without a shred of doubt,
people cannot change themselves.

Fifty years later
as he was dying
his born-angry baby
standing quietly by his deathbed
with no apparent anger
made him think

Fuck, he thought,
looks like I may have been
wrong about that
I wish I hadn’t been so
goddamned categorical
about it all my life.  

Then he died.

Reverie during a hot shower

The hot water pounding gently
felt so good
it made me close my eyes

I saw suddenly
caramel colored shoulders
the collarbones also caramel
against the brilliant white peasant blouse
I was trying to peer down into

The house where this happened
has long ago been razed
a gothic nightmare stands there now

I was monosyllabic
still in the grips of
a long bout
of what they told me was
a mild form of depression,
I had no interest in anything,
only dread,
but somehow I was seeking
what was down the front of this loose
necked white dress

The girl, for her part
seemed interested in
showing me whatever I
wanted to see, to touch

“Call me,”she said
as she rose to leave the party

“I…” I began
as time turned thick
“I’d… like to…” I said

Her eyes were like
the eyes of a beautiful deer

“Uh, it would be hard to do, though,
since I…
don’t have…
your number”

Apparently she took this
as stylish
and gave me an easy smile

As she bent forward
to write her number
I got to see more of the smooth skin
inside her white peasant dress

it was only a little bit
lighter than her caramel colored shoulders,
face, neck, collarbones, arms,
her perfectly smooth legs.

A few days later
around midnight
we sat on the ledge of a fountain
at Lincoln Center

I told her she must
come home with me,
she said she couldn’t
there was a guy in love with her.

Back at my apartment
the little sounds she made
reminded me of a long lost love.

Erased from History

Many assholes dream of immortality,
making an indelible mark on this world.
Most of us just want to live,
admire the perfect blue gradient the sky sometimes is,
play music, cook something tasty,
laugh hard once in a while.

Overbearing assholes want everything —
they want to own that perfect blue gradient,
devour all they see.
they build monuments to themselves
and hire guards to beat people
who lean against the monument
or look at it with insufficient awe.

My people have no graves.
killed wholesale,
there was nobody left to bury them.
A tiny handful
lived to have headstones,
four grandparents,
my parents,
the rest
as the world said of them at the time
“fuck ’em.”

Nobody alive now even knows their names.

In ancient Egypt
the rulers were chosen by the gods.
when the gods withdrew their favor from
one dynasty
and bestowed it on another,
workers from the new dynasty
would go into the tombs of the earlier rulers
and scrape their faces off the walls of the tombs
erasing them from history,
fucking up their afterlives.

It’s hard to feel sorry
for motherfuckers who walked on carpets
made of living human bodies,
but I know the feeling
of being written out of history

My concern is not for a time to come
it is for now,
the time remaining
to each of us right now,
that lush wink of a cosmic eye.

Beautiful poem by Rumi

I want to see you.
Know your voice.
Recognize you when you
first come ’round the corner.
Sense your scent when I come
into a room you’ve just left.

Know the lift of your heel,
the glide of your foot.

Become familiar with the way
you purse your lips
then let them part,
just the slightest bit,
when I lean in to your space
and kiss you.

I want to know the joy
of how you whisper



[with a tip of the fez to the learned old friend who posted this on his FezBook page a few days back]


My sister sent me this poem, which was featured dramatically in Godless [1], after a life Sekhnet and I both loved ended, like a candle blown out as gently as possible.   It is a beautiful poem and touches that climbing sorrow we feel at the death of those we deeply love, sorrow that crushes the lungs and makes breathing hard, the shadow of our own death drawing close.  Not only sorrow but the awe and terror we foolish mortals feel when death takes a soul we love.  I had difficulty reading it aloud to Sekhnet last night.  Today I am practicing.

Tis a Fearful Thing

Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be
and, oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing,
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh has lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing,
to love
what death has touched.

Yehuda HaLevi (1075 [or 1086]- 1141)

After my mother died, years of denying her approaching death from an aggressive, eventually untreatable cancer finally done, I was alone in her apartment.  I’d been alone there for the several days she was in hospice, but each previous night my mother had been alive.  Now I was alone in her apartment in the dark night and she was gone. 

I walked from room to room, looking at her things, the paintings she’d done that were on the walls, her books, the collected owl figurines in their custom-built glass and metal case.   

At one point I went into her walk-in closet, a little room where she must have gotten dressed after her shower.   Her housecoat and nightgowns were hanging on hangers along with her other clothes.  Her special orthopedic shoes were lined up on a shelf near the floor.  Her family photo albums were arranged on a high shelf.  The air in there smelled like the powder she dusted herself with.   The little room smelled like my mother.  My breath suddenly caught in my chest.  I felt like no air would ever go into my body again.  I felt overwhelmed by the grievous irrevocability of death, the reality that I would never see my mother again.   I stood there for a long moment, unable to take in a breath, sobbed hard for a few seconds, and walked back into the other room, probably to tap at the computer, as I am tapping now.



[1] a gripping drama, set in the old West, on Netflix

Fighting My Moods

I am fighting my moods
these days
and the little fuckers have the upper hand

They gang up,
attack by stealth
over the top, swinging from ropes
dirty knives between their teeth.

“I’m glad you can make light of this”
says one
grinning an unhealthy grin,
breath like a slaughterhouse.

“Fuckface,” says another mood
surlier than the first
“ever smell your own breath?”

I’ve learned that vigorous exercise
is good for keeping these fuckers at bay,
also, being tender with myself and
as mild as I can with others

I’ve been forbidden from exercise
the last few months,
first the asthenia from the poor man’s chemo
(you’d be poor if we charged you the actual price, bro)
weakness that made three flights of stairs a mountain
and now enforced rest after minor surgery,
nothing that will cause blood to flow
to the face.

“So you’ll have a fucking livid knife scar
down the side of your fucking nose,
pussy,” says a mood whose ass could be easily
by a long bike ride.

“but you’re too scared
to take a long bike ride
after so many weeks
now, aren’t you?” says the merciless
little momzer.

“Keep on in this vein all day,”
says another,
bland as a random statistic,
“see if we care.
You’re playing right into our hands,
you depressed motherfucker.”

“No need to call names,” I say,
with an exaggerated sniff
turned on a dime
into a determined smirk.

“Speak for yourself, bitch,”
say my ambitions
for the day,
in a rather nasty
fucking singsong.


I spend my days
with a dying cat,
conversing with
a talkative skeleton  

The cat is brutally cute,
but mean as a snake,
the skeleton is witty and
sometimes insightful,
but long, long dead

I am clearly the
pulling his strings
in conversation
as the cat looks away

My friends, shed no tear
for me
I’m doing what’s needed

there is no greater calling.


On Being Direct

It’s best to be direct,
though it can be painful 
while, say, 
pretending to converse 
with someone uncannily channeling
a beaming Christian Bale as American Psycho.
It’s easier to watch a horror movie
than to find yourself inside one 
trying to remain sincere
while looking into a funhouse mirror,
fun hogtied and bleeding,
gasping for breath.  
It’s fun until somebody loses an eye

One for nothin’

Went in to check on snoring Sekhnet, who, on about three and a half hours of sleep, set off for a job, under cover of darkness, and returned to creep up the stairs ten or eleven hours later, as I was writing.  

She was in a deep sleep when I went to check on her, make sure she had a sheet over her as she sprawled in front of the fan.

“Grandma picked a fig off the tree,” she murmured as I pulled a sheet over her shoulders.

“Your father’s fig tree?” I asked.

“Yeah, and she was picking a fig that wasn’t ripe and I said ‘grandma, that fig’s not ripe.’  And grandma said…” she mumbled, talking in her sleep.

“What did grandma say?” I asked her.

“I don’t know, you woke me up,” she said, and immediately began snoring again.