Five Short Poems

“Five Short Poems”


Like ancient explorers of unknown seas

We stood on the deck of the Arctic Princess -

Keith Jarrett rhapsodizing from a boombox on the table;

Glaciers looming before us like massive white bears -

Holding glasses of Kir.

"I saw Jarrett at the Vanguard,"

You told me, "When we were in college."

It was a time when desire enveloped the world

Like mist drifting over water -

Desire and possibility;

Desire and impossibility.

"All our life's a meditation," I mused,

"Upon the contours of our despair.

Until at last, humbled, impotent, and abused,

We inherit, from someplace we never visited,

The tattered remnants of a concept

We once imagined we could share."

It is the shameless self-indoctrination

Of those who cannot hope or think

Except of places half-hidden behind

The blistered, raw edges of our mind.

I poured myself another drink.

Like seagulls squalling victory

In our evanescent dreams,

Or the girl I never kissed

At the prom I never went to,

You chided me, once again

For being so severe.


At three o'clock

A swarm of phlegmatic rhinoceros

Invaded Sunset Boulevard.

Snorting and chugging, they slowly made their way

Toward a house once occupied by Bugsy Siegel,

Where one of their members had recently expired.

I was there. I heard their deafening laments.

I knew first-hand there was no justice

For those who, like Frank Sinatra or Shirley MacLaine

Outlived their usefulness.

And there you were – there, too –

Admiring a large canvas by Roberto Matta.

"It summarizes," you sermonized –

As if I needed another drubbing –

"The destitution of those who refuse

To bow before the god of dirt and shit."

As usual, you were right.

That much was clear as day.

I looked out through whitewashed French doors

At a cloud creeping across the livid sky.

It was not of our world, and yet it was.

And then at a caterpillar,

Thicker than the branch it crawled upon

And blind as a bottomless well,

Groping its way toward the bending sprig's termination.

And down to the smooth-cut, verdant lawn

That stretched out toward the redwood deck

And the fashionably tiled swimming pool.

Your eyes followed mine.

And on a cue that neither of us understood,

We turned our gazes back toward each other,

Our irises wide like the tiled pool.


Once in a while,

When the feeling grabs you,

You'll pull off your alpaca cardigan

Your lace-up boots 

Your tie-dyed T-shirt and your jeans and all the rest 

And dance a slow pavane in the town square.

This, despite the numerous wounds –

The lacerations and bullet-holes and burn marks –

That cover your body like a second skin.

I and others have suggested to you

That such impulsive hoofings may appear immodest

To the uninitiated –

A considerable group of souls, you must admit,

Which takes in just about everyone,

Including me, and probably you yourself.

You shrug off my concerns – a horse twitching away flies.

It isn't that decorum and restraint mean nothing to you –

In fact, you're rather the prude.

But you have your obligations, and I have mine.

Your body is a messenger.

There are wounds for which there is no balm

And depths of suffering for which there is no name.


Friendship is not an infinitely flexible balloon.

Its boundaries can only be stretched so far.

I've about had it with yours

And you've about had it with mine

And we will keep having it for the foreseeable future.


It is evening in the facilities:

The day shift cleaning up;

The night shift about to begin their labors.

Sitting here, alone in the crepuscule,

I ask myself, yet again,

How we permit a disloyal God

So relentlessly to enslave

Our innocent affections.