He left home suddenly,
Just ahead of the police,
Or the army, whosever day it was
To reach out and torment him.

He left home,
Unread book left open on the couch,
Dishes left unwashed,
Door still open
As if astonished at the turn of events.

He left home
Just ahead of his brother,
Who, running late
Arrived just after the police.

Years later, thinking
Of the gulag,
Thinking of his brother,
He wept, alone,
Longing for the comfort of prison.


In the distance,
I see him coming, the stride
Unmistakable, the smile forgiving,
Even at that distance

He carries the ghosts of my ancestors,
The last of a generation
A link to a past unbidden
And yet desperately sought.

We meet in the middle of the bridge
And embrace
“A hundred grams?” he says,
His eyes, guarded but hopeful.

“You’ll buy me a vodka?”

How we are tricked by memory

My poems come from pith,
just below the hide of me,
from the circus trance of
living the long moment,

the split between inspiration
and expiration, blue with envy
of the sky, such security!
We’re doomed, aren’t we,

to just missing it all,
to the rear view,
to always thinking,
“So that was it?”

Never mind.
It orders itself soon enough
into personal mythology.
You know the stories,

how this and that
caused something or other,
you either played a part
or didn’t. Nevertheless,

a certain wistfulness,
thin as a spider’s wiry grip
and as strong,
betrays us every time.

The old country

They say in the old country
that lighthouses are for keepers;
better make your own way.
They say eyes are like knives piercing your heart;
better stay low and move fast.

They say in the old country
that hopes are like lovers;
better check your promises.
They say dreams are fragile
and fall from heads like autumn leaves;
better watch your step.

They say shelter is for beggars;
better nail your secrets to the wall.

How swiftly came the killing season

How swiftly came the killing season
swept in from hinterlands
just when we had remarked upon
the sameness of it all.

How soon the must-not-be-named
became quotidian.
Weren’t we standing there,
thinking how sensible

not to raise a ruckus,
how preferable to simply
turn our backs to the foul wind?

How did we come to this?
Didn’t we say how better we were?
What comfort are platitudes


Overheard: “Religion is fashionable these days.”

I’m going Hassidic, man,
Black hat, long curls
Slip-sliding down my ears,
Prayer thing, all fringy,
Hanging out my waistcoat

Or maybe Mormon,
White shirt, black tie
In the high summer heat
Bike oil staining my cuffs

If that don’t work,
I might go Amish
Dress like I just busted
A long term sentence
Begun in 1850,
Drag my plow horse to work
Every God-given day

Or Catholic?
They got nothing except
For priests, and I’m no priest
Got no taste for boys
Got up in cassocks

Nor desert stuff for me
Got no taste for heads
Wrapped or unwrapped
Attached or unattached

I’d consider voodoo
But my juju
Is lame and those
Blazing beads radiate
Way too much heat

Or, on second thought, no.
I got no style for this kind of stuff