Contents

1. MY SMILE
MY THRILL
MY THING
2. PRAYERS
3. COMPLAINTS
4. THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
5. COME ON – LET’S GO
6. LOST THINGS
7. SORROW
8. A MOTHER’S LOVE
9. ON READING It Catches My Heart In Its Hands
by CHARLES BUKOWSKY
10. UGLY
11. IMPOSSIBLE
12. YET ANOTHER REVOLUTION
13. MORNING TRAFFIC
14. CHARLES MADE ME DO IT
15. CAR REPAIR
16. POT-LUCK DINNER PARTY IN TOPANGA
17. THE KITE — For Gerald
18. FOR PABLO — WHILE YOU HOLD ME IN YOUR ARMS
19. THE TICKET
20. PROVOCATIVE TIMES
21. DROPS & VAPORS
22. GETTING THROUGH

MY SMILE

Here I am
on the inside looking out.
I experience my smiling face
in a different way from you.
The way I see it I have the smile of Rachel
my five year old granddaughter
whose smile lights up my life.
When I smile
my face lights up
just as bright as hers.
When I smile the world
is a wonderful place.
My smile is perfectly clear inside me.

MY THRILL

It’s getting harder
and better. Never knowing
what’s coming next is intolerable
and thrilling. It’s the thrill of
being alive.

MY WAY

It’s hard to write something meaningful
yet I try to write poems.
There’s something of potential importance
about short lines and pieces.
Like a prayer every word must count.
PRAYERS

I’ve returned to lighting candles on Friday night
and praying hard. I pray in front of the flames
with my hands covering my eyes
so I’m not distracted by material things.
I conjure up photo images of my family
starting with myself, then my boys
then their wives and my little girls.
Then my mother, my sisters
their husbands and all my nephews.
I make a general picture of all the grand-kids
and then whoever else jumps into my mind.
These days it’s Jack. And also Patrick
and Aileen. Sometimes Billy. Sometimes
I pray for the men who got away,
the ones who hurt me so much.
I put golden rays of light,
like ancient icon paintings,
around each and every one of us
and ask God to bless us
and keep us safe from harm.

COMPLAINTS

I complain about the party being not to my liking
I should have gone to the screening with Joanie
or to my friends in the valley
or to the Tango Milonga in Burbank.
But tonight we’ll eat steak at Dan Tana’s
and then hike up to the strip
where we’ll stop into Book Soup
and I’ll complain there are too many books
to read. And, why don’t I write one or two myself?
What’s the big deal?
I could do it on the train in India.
I could do it anywhere I want.
But it ‘s too hard a job
and traveling alone is hard enough.
That last one’s not a real complaint.

THOUGHTS FOR TODAY

Here’s something I want to say
You’ve got to have a chair in the bedroom
to throw your clothes on.
Think of it.
Without a chair in the bedroom
you’ve got to throw your clothes
on the floor, and that’s not nice.

Another thing: what’s the good
of a cell phone if you’ve got nobody to call?
I walked around with my new cell phone
dying to take it out on the street
or in my car, and make a phone call
like all the ass holes I see talking on their
cell phones everywhere I go.
But I can’t think of anyone to call.

There’s more. I want to be able
to climb up mountains again,
and to write good stuff.
I wish my car was in better shape.
I want to stay home and practice yoga
and get on the road and write.
Do I ask too much?
COME ON – LET’S GO

I trace a line from your house to mine
and hope you’ll follow it, like an ant
without any other possibility in your life
but me, come and get me. It’s so hard
these days to connect, to say something
rare and meaningful or at least useful.
What does the hummingbird whisper to the flower
while he perches there? What do you
say to me, lover, when you are perched
so near, so ready? I don’t have anything nire
to say today. Oh yes, I’m learning
how not to lose the grip. I want
to test this knowledge in a real situation.
This is such garbage I want to vomit now.
I think I’ll go into the kitchen and get
something to eat. Maybe look at a magazine
or open my mail. Anything is better
than this agony.
LOST THINGS

Life is hard, it’s a struggle
and I can’t hold on to things.
I‘ll skip the part about my ex-husband,
a man who took hot baths first thing in the morning.
I’ll think of that colorful crocheted shawl
I left in the restaurant in Brittany
how much I loved it and cared for it
even more than the man
who was with me then.
I threw a glassful of red wine
in his face, just like in the movies
but I was so miserable and spontaneous I didn’t
enjoy the pleasure of it like a spectator would.
He didn’t find it funny either.
Then I ran out and left him and the shawl forever.

I lost track of the Swiss painter.
He kissed me in the garden
and took off my panties,
which might still be there
buried under a pile of leaves.
I hear he still asks about me
when he bumps into mutual friends
in the post office.

Last night I climbed up a ladder
took down the duvet from the shelf
at the top of the closet
and spread it open on my bed.
I filled a hot water bottle from the tap
and dried it well before slipping it
between the cool cotton sheets.
I put on socks and a long sleeved shirt
and then got into bed — alone
feeling pretty darned good.
SORROW

After you left me
I cried for five years
causing the rivers to overflow
the valleys to flood
and the armies of Egypt to drown.
My brittle back broke into pieces
and my feet pushed roots into the unfriendly sand.
But I could see all
with my bitter eyes of crystal
and hammered steel.
I saw the fingernails of truth
and the slimy thing that turns
like the shimmering kneecaps of a lover
who runs in fear,
like a first-time thief
away from his mother.
A MOTHER’S LOVE

I got a great shock this morning
when I opened the Book Review section.
They printed a photograph of
two young men
who had just been lynched.
They were hanging from trees
in front of a smiling, happy mob,
and you could see their faces
clearly. They looked like
nice boys. I thought of my boys.
A mother’s love
went out to them from me
and I felt so much pain I had to close the newspaper
and throw it away. But I still
can’t get that picture out of my mind.
ON READING It Catches My Heart In Its Hands
by CHARLES BUKOWSKY

The first few were okay. I felt a little self-conscious
with his early effort to sound poetic, considering
I knew the kind of stuff he would eventually write,
like his last poem
where he told us to get the most out of our lives,
and proved he could talk straight
from the heart without blinking.
But it was all the whoring that got to me.
Page after page of smelly fucks
on creaking springs, and him, a scruffy hound,
always getting up and going over to the window
to see what life was like outside.

I got fed up with raucous horse races, beat-up whores,
the endless sucking of sour beer,
always badly in need of a shave.
I resented the image
of the old landladies, who were probably Jewish,
snooping in stinking hallways
trying to get rent money out of him.
And I disdain his glorifying the general piss-stained squalor
in the arms of some worshipful young pussy acolyte
who laughs at everything he does,
including vomiting against the wall,
and who throws a mercy fuck to the drunken old fart
before stealing some pages off his desk.
UGLY

This morning I noticed
Raquel’s face lift didn’t work out too good.
I see her lips are swollen
and the face is distorted.
I know the worst ravages are still ahead
waiting in my mirror to shock and hurt me.
I watch frail old ladies walking down Fairfax
hunched over their canes, with skinny legs
and white curls tucked under their hats.
and they’re no beauties.
Old age can be ugly
a curse when it comes with bad health
Pain makes us ugly.
And bitterness and sorrow too.
And if beauty is in the eyes of the beholder
then I’m ugly today.
Big deal. So I’m ugly,
and old,
and fuck you leave me alone.

IMPOSSIBLE

I knew
in my heart and soul
I wanted to stay
when I saw the quiet lake
beside the small town
I’d dreamed of all my life
nestled in the emerald forest
with good neighbors
and a community
that would embrace me
like a comfy robe
once they got to know me.

It seemed a place
where I could carry out
tender domestic chores
and with a little luck
carve a deep verse or two
before the hungry night arrived.

I turned away
from a home in perpetual eclipse
and an impossible life.
It was an idyllic place
that would never be mine
though I enjoyed the dream
for a day or two
until we packed up and left
and headed west
to the wild ocean
where I knew
I’d be better off.
YET ANOTHER REVOLUTION
He was handsome and mysterious
and spoke about the revolution that failed
in Nicaragua. He didn’t much like Cardenal
but said he loved Borges best of all.
Something about a rose
within the rose within the rose
and I thought he was talking about love.
I haven’t heard much about love lately.
We stood in a candle-lit garden
in the Hollywood Hills
sipping red wine and eating chocolate chip cookies
from Trader Joe’s.
He asked for my number so we could continue
the conversation. I felt my cheeks flush
when I put my card in his strong hand.
He patted his pocket with satisfaction
after slipping it in.
It’s been a week now and no call.
His revolution isn’t the only thing
that failed.

MORNING TRAFFIC

There are some things I enjoy
about morning traffic. Listening to Roy Masters
bring people back to God on the radio
and driving down Orlando Street
stopping at intersections
with four way stops
where I take charge of traffic
deciding who got in first
and signaling with my hands
to the person in the other car
to wait for me
or go ahead.
It satisfies the traffic cop in me
or some other need to control
the way the world works.
I feel like I’m in charge of it all
and they obey,
and act on my judgment
of who may stop
and who may go.
Between that and looking out for Jack
when I cross Colegate
I have a good time
getting through the morning traffic.
CHARLES MADE ME DO IT

They’re fixing things under the ground
and have dug up the streets
on La Cienega, next to the Beverly Center.
I am inconvenienced. Driving in this town
can drive you crazy if you let it. On Saturday
I drove home from Beverly Hills
on Santa Monica Boulevard
where they had closed off one lane
to make repairs under the street
and it took forty-five minutes
to drive five blocks.
I got to look at the fairies strutting down the boulevard
and inhale the odors of beer and sex
exuding from raucous bars.
It was midnight when I drove into my garage
and discovered
someone had parked their silver-blue Audi
in my spot. Texas plates.
I drove around the block three times
but there were no parking spots. So I drove
back into the garage and parked
behind the Audi, blocking his way, so he could not move.
This made me feel pretty good
considering all the alternatives.
Then I went upstairs
unplugged the front doorbell
and disconnected the phone
in case the Texan got the urge to
come after me
in the middle of the night.
I took a hot bath and got into bed,
watched some TV,
and slept very well.
CAR REPAIR

The auto body man is out to get me.
He thinks I’m a pushover
and don’t know much about repairing cars.
He promises he’ll do the right thing
and opens the door for me
like a gentleman,
points out the step in the entrance
so I won’t trip and fall.
But I know a snake in the grass
when I see one. It’s written in his eyes,
blue or green and cold as the twisted steel
of my left front fender, the one I smashed
in the parking lot when I hit the pole
that was hidden from view.
I keep bumping
into poles these days.
Shit! As long as it’s not
flesh and blood
I can manage another car repair.
POT-LUCK DINNER PARTY IN TOPANGA

two corn chips with very hot salsa
four small barbecued chicken legs
a glass of cheap red wine
two tablespoons, more or less, of wild rice
and vegetable salad
another two tablespoons of black bean
and vegetable salad
a small chunk of homemade olive bread
with butter
a heaping cupful of homemade potato salad
one crepe stuffed with cheese and mushrooms
a nice tall slice of rich homemade chocolate cake
with no frosting
one and a half glasses of Veuve Cliquot
some juicy bits of conversation
here and there between mouthfuls
and then I went home.
THE KITE — For Gerald

I held it tight by the tail
and when the wings flapped and fluttered
I let it go
nose up
sky-blue wings filled with wind
rolling off the ocean’s cobra skin.
You held the strings taut
tied to a couple of sticks
and fought invisible currents
that brought the kite
crashing back down
into the sand only moments later.
I had to run all over the place
to retrieve the damned thing
so you could start the process
all over again.
I watched all this
under a hot copper sky
at days end.
Flying kites
isn’t easy
but when it goes…
there nothing
like it.

FOR PABLO — WHILE YOU HOLD ME IN YOUR ARMS

I receive my thoughts
from the hills and dry rivers
of a city tasting of salt, soot and exhaust fumes
the bitter pill of modern life
in a place I never dreamed
or hoped to see.

I sleep at the foot of these hills
on the edge of this land
over the ring of fire
and dream of the spinning earth.
I have put down roots
but they do not take.
Perhaps my flower will bloom
when I turn the corner, near the park
and catch my reflection in the window
with red nails, and hair done up for a party.

I do not take the easy way
I spend my life measuring
the distances between the continents
and the altitudes of mountains.
There is no gauge
for the depth of love.
I follow the blind road
into the abyss of blood and rocks.
I come from the wind
galloping on a dark horse
with my white hat tied under my chin
my hair a nest of soldiers
my blanket a swarm of bees.
My arms are moonbeams around his neck
I adorn his flying mane with smiles.
I open the window
and release my breath into the wind.
THE TICKET

The dark green candle-wax
melts and drips
onto the white marble table
forming a soothing pool
like his eyes in the mid-light
of my room of echoes
or a radium clock dial
in starlight under a tower of trees.

I did not ask to come here
yet I couldn’t refuse
the complex plot
offered like a first class ticket
to a place I wanted to know
no matter how long and difficult
the journey, sitting up all night
on a wooden bench in a rocking train
without a dining car
but where, nevertheless,
sweet tea is offered
at each and every stop
poured from brass kettles
into tiny china cups
which we must return before
leaving the tumultuous station.
I must go now
forward as the reckless river
to that ultimate destination
inscribed on the original ticket
and clipped by the
careful conductor
who calls all the stops.

PROVOCATIVE TIMES

I would have to call this a provocative time
going from pleasure to pleasure
waiting for the ax to fall
knowing its familiar approach
and relishing each moment
it’s not time yet
with the simple awareness
of birds’ shrill cries
in the city of sirens
that slice up the night
of tongues and tattoos
sure as the flash of a barber’s shears
knowing there’s no going back.

I used to think it had no end
and noticed soft flower buds
on spiny cactus plants
or ladies taking tea
on linen covered tables
in the rose garden
and swallowing sandwiches of
salmon and cress
with chocolate tidbits for dessert.
Ah, it’s all so sweet
while we’re here
entertaining dinner plans
and theater tickets
of fairies on pointed toes
and sweaty bottoms in the gym.
Messages on the answering machine
waiting until I get home
to make appointments.
Yes, I believe it’s a provocative time.
DROPS & VAPORS

We do ourselves so much harm
by ignoring signs of what’s to come,
the end result of a pampered life
where, among other items, African famine
and Latin American torture
are only words on paper
that disappear as soon as
we mark our calendars
to remember the sale at Neiman’s
next week, or to pick up the dry cleaning
on Thursday, after 5 o’clock.
My grandmother on my mother’s side,
whom I never knew,
died of a stroke at a very young age.
But I think it was something else
that made her decide
death was preferable.
Something in the family, I fear.
Was it my grandfather’s drinking
or some other brutality
of the new world whose language
she didn’t know, and whose ways
were too difficult to comprehend?
She keeled over in a narrow hallway
with a bucket of coal in one hand
and a bloody carp’s head wrapped in paper
in the other. They said she never knew
what happened to her but I doubt that.
Nowadays I keep myself going
with capsules, drops and vapors
and make plans so there’s a future
I can dream of that will get me
at least until after Christmas.

GETTING THROUGH

I keep getting through
as the gates slide shut
always slipping through
by the skin of my teeth
thank God I still have some teeth left.
I’m waiting to hear it slam shut.
How long can this go on
I wonder each morning
waking up with a prayer on my lips
always a prayer of praise
and thanks for another day.
Like we Jews like to do with our strange symbols
I’ve discovered what it means
to get through another day alive.
And well. Thanks to God.
What else? And if it is something else
thanks to that too. I don’t mind.
Anyway, sometimes I believe
and other times I don’t.
Right now I do
because I’m putting words on paper
and how that happens is beyond me.
I keep expecting that there’s nothing to say
and maybe there isn’t, but here I am
doing it.
Praise God!!!