Gulags

I

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.

II

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?”

An age of witness

Some coffee, some cake,
and settle in while
the kettle cools, and
don’t forget to make it
gluten free,

while you scroll through
images of devastation,
death and destruction,

your in-text finger
itching for action.

Another sip
— is it too early for wine?
Such corporate misbehavior
must be punished, and here,
a public figure, untrue, imperfect.

Some semblance of decorum
must be maintained, if for
no other reason than
to provide a benchmark for outrage.

Outside, daylight
is dying.

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
now?

Psalm

The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want

I shall not want for tribulation
For the flock is scattered
Their bleating goes unheard
Wolves nibble at the corners
With no fear of hindrance
I shall not want for tribulation
For the armies of God surround me
They have raised up the banners
Of loathing in every direction
And lo the sheep crawl
In slavish obeisance
I shall not want for tribulation
Even the dogs have abandoned us
As the shepherd sleeps off His cosmic binge
I shall walk through the valley
Of the shadow of death
Eyes closed
Fingers in my ears