Saturday, April 30, 2011

As I Leave the Time Machine (Prompt: After Leaving Here)

Sitting here 
with the time machine,
I make glorious plans.

I am taken back to 
memories 
some golden, some bitter 

and taken to dreams, 
allowing myself the conceit 
of clairvoyance.

In the time machine
everything that I am not
does not matter 

it’s just me 
these fingers 
this keyboards
and these thoughts

all
somehow
inexplicably 
working in concert 

for some creative
common end. 

While a man sitting alone at 
a machine 
can hardly be called noble,

sometimes 
if he strikes the idea 
just right 
and the Muse 
has been kind

he’ll write something
that might make a difference

even if that difference 
is only
a smile.

So,
I keep trying, 

though the ideas be 
modest or miniscule.

Perhaps they’ll outlast me
as an incomplete legacy, 

and 
as I leave the time machine
of writing

I will re-engage 
with the real-world

long enough and
deep enough 
to hopefully find 

still more
to bring back 
to the machine.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ode to Julius (Prompt: Ode)

As far back as I can remember,
you were the uncle that I only read about
and saw from a distance
in black and white.


You were sardonic and intelligent
and the first man
I ever wanted to be like.


Your nightly prayer:
“Unborn yesterday, dead tomorrow;
why fret if life be sweet?”
might’ve made
the Buddha smile.


The fact that you
always made the wisest crack
in the room
was awe-inspiring.


Some may have forgotten you,
but I carry you as an iconic ideal,
and keep studying,
in my vain attempt to become you.


In you
I saw a reluctant prophet
whose mission was to deflate
the world’s pomposity,


and in this self-important,
narcissistic society,
it is a calling worth emulating.


I regret that
the only time
we ever met
was at Eden Memorial Park Cemetery,
at your marker,
decorated with
a lone Star of David:


“Groucho Marx,
1890-1977.” 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The World Without Color TV (Prompt: The World without ___")

Feather-like,
Anita floated into my world
and brought to everything
she touched

new life,
new meaning.

How could I not
build my whole existence
around her?

It’s like I once heard:
“She's like color TV. 
Once you have it,
you never want to go back
to black and white.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Into the Heart of this Mess (Prompt: In the ___ of ____)

Life is a series of 
huge, unpainted canvases
and every day 
I prick myself
just a little bit,

and let the blood
wash over all that space
and I’ll write a melody,
or puree the language, 
deface an advertisement
with my inky piss,
give a spare dollar 
to an otherwise
invisible veteran,

and all these 
quiet acts of agency,
are my protests 
again the mundane and 
inevitable conclusion
to this existence.

Everyday’s 
waiting for my mark
my blood, 
my time, 

and when I am taken
from this plane

if you gather 
all these explosions 
these splatters of blood
and
look deeply 
into the heart of this mess,

I pray you find
it was worth it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ahead of My Time (Less Indulgent Version)

1977 -
In junior high school PE,
I was one of those boys
who wasn’t a great athlete
and I didn’t aspire to be one.

I liked talking to girls
and reading
and listening to records
and daydreaming
and watching
Heckle and Jeckle cartoons.

I dreaded the miscreant sadists
we called “Coach,”
and their misguided attempts
to make men of
"sissy boys" like me.

I never understood
why all my classmates
loved this -
even as a kid
I knew it was sweaty,
messy
and not conducive to
learning.

And now, as I see the fattening
of middle school boys
in 2011
texting girls
plugged into their iPods
playing Call of Duty
and not wanting to get sweaty,

I smile
at how I was 
ahead of my time.

Ahead of Our Time (Prompt: Leader and/or Follower Poem)

1977 -
In junior high school PE,
I was one of those boys
who wasn’t a great athlete
and I didn’t aspire to be one.

I liked talking to girls
and reading
and listening to records
and daydreaming
and watching
Heckle and Jeckle cartoons.

I dreaded the miscreant sadists
we called “Coach,”
and their misguided attempts
to make men of
"sissy boys" like me
and Armando,
the other overweight Mexican
kid in the group.

Our skinny white classmates
ran like grinning idiots
at these coaches’ command,
but Armando and I
protested as we
walked the track
far behind the pack.

I never understood
why all my classmates
loved this -
even as a kid
I knew it was sweaty,
messy
and not conducive to
learning.

Maybe they were
acting out some homoerotic
army man fantasy
as they bobbed in anticipation
and divided themselves into
teams.

One day, Coach Perez,
the only other Mexican in class
(imagine our  betrayal!)
had enough of our apathy,
so he had us lay on our backs
on the blacktop
and do leg lifts,

at 30 degrees
then 60 degrees,
then 90 degree angles
for the entire period.

Our guts burned
but we didn’t
say a word to complain.

We just took it,
silent and stoic –

like men.

For the remainder of the year
we had an unspoken compact
with Coach Perez,
where we would half-try
and he would half leave us alone.

And now, as I see the fattening
of middle school boys
2011
texting girls
plugged into their iPods
and playing Call of Duty
and not wanting to get sweaty,

I smile
at how Armando and I were
ahead of our time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cosmic Banana Peel (Prompt: Falling Poem)

Falling is the reminder
to keep myself humble.

When I try to present myself
as perfect,
flawless
or more simply,
merely balanced,
the rug slips from under my foot,
the shower floor becomes slicker,
the height of the curb, higher.

The challenge is not
how quickly I can right myself
and regain dignity,
but rather,
how happily can I accept
this indignity
that I did not want.

I do not deserve
smooth, unwrinkled perfection,
none of us do,
and the minute I think otherwise,
I slow down
and check myself

for I know
there must be a
cosmic banana peel
somewhere out there

with my name on it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Prayer for Just Enough (prompt: Prayer Poem)

Lord,

please bring us world peace
but just enough to keep things
tranquil 
without becoming boring.

Please bring us good health
but just enough 
so that our own occasional
ache and pain 
will remind us to have compassion
for others’ hardships.

Bring us prosperity
but just enough
so that no one ever goes to bed
hungry
and that no one ever becomes 
possessed 
by their possessions.

Let us be sure 
of your infinite forgiveness
but just enough 
so that we never cheapen
your grace 
by taking it 
for granted. 

Lord, 
let us love one another
and take care of one another
just enough
to eventually
replace this list 
of petitions
with an endless psalm
of thanksgiving.

Baruch Hashem Adonai.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Plea (Prompt: Quit Doing That Poem)

Of the multitude of sins
you commit:

from dishonoring our mothers and fathers 
for comedic effect,
to encouraging the coveting of all
things material and shiny,
to violating the Sabbath 
to attend the early bird sale,

I implore you, 
Madison avenue:

please stop co-opting
the soundtrack of 
our collective 
culture and memory 

to sell more
beer,
cell phones
and SUVs.

Friday, April 22, 2011

No Separation (Prompt: Only One in the World Poem)

There is more to this world
than can be seen
by the untrained eye.

If you accept this
then also know
that the line where
my body ends
and where the space
around me begins
is
continuous:

no separation.

The air that touches me
touches you
and the idea
that there is any
distinction
between
me and you and
anything else

is a shared illusion.

The differences
we think
we see,

are just things
we think.

If one looks
very closely
and sees everything
as holy

there is no separation
from anything
including God

and this is
good news
indeed. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

First Thought, Second Thought (Prompt: Second Thought Poem)

I’ve never read Kerouac
but I’ve heard his motto was
“First thought, best thought.”

I guess that’s why
he’s a genius.

Often I set my ideas
up on the high dive
only to find
    - splat!-
no water in the pool.

I own my mistakes
because
at the time
I never
made the
second best decision:

every mistake
seemed like
a good idea
at the time.

My first thoughts
are rude and messy,
combustible and inelegant.

The second thoughts
are the polite ones,
the properly socialized
and educated ones.

The first thought
may be me,

but the second thought
is Me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Message in the Bottle (Prompt: Message in a bottle poem)

I drained the first bottle
looking for the message.

It was fun,
but I didn’t see any message,
so, thinking I had
a defective one,
I drained a second bottle.

The second one felt good
right away,
so I didn’t mind
draining a third
in search of that
ever elusive message.

Years passed,
bottles fell,
and nights wasted.

I don’t remember
when it stopped
being fun,
but I realized if there
was a message waiting
at the bottom of the bottle,
I was too damned drunk
to see it.

When I drained
the last bottle
just before midnight
February 10, 1990,
a message finally made it
through:

“you can’t handle this.”

It wasn’t profound,
but it was honest,

and, thankfully,
I haven’t handled it
since.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Doesn’t Look like Love, But Is (Prompt: Love Poem) and Looks Like Love, But Isn’t (Prompt: Anti-Love Poem)

Doesn’t Look like Love, But Is (Love Poem)

The place reeked of sweat 
and insecurity,
there was a twisted honor
in this verbal mosh pit,
as insult upon insult 
piled higher and cut deeper.

Nothing was sacred;
one’s skin eruptions
the size of one’s genitalia
the supposed sexual performance
of one’s mother,

the more stinging,
the better.

Years in the future
the women in our lives
would never understand
this humor,
this camaraderie,
this test.

“It just sounds 
so mean, so negative.”

We tempered each other
in the nastiest, most vicious
remarks
because the last thing 
we wanted was 
to see your pal 
completely devastated
the day his boss called him 
a fuck up
or his girlfriend
tried to impugn his 
manhood.

We were in training,
toughening each other up
for the struggle 
that seemed as inevitable
as our fathers’ 
quiet exhaustion.
-------------------
Looks Like Love, But Isn’t (Anti-Love Poem)

Completely unbound
by desire and passion
they shamelessly explored,
unaware, unconcerned
with anything or anyone else.

The surgical perfection
in his oiled Olympian musculature
glistened,
and every inch of her skin 
had been powdered, 
waxed and painted 
to superhuman effect.

His rigid, oversized and 
camera-ready member
didn’t fail owing to
off-camera doses 
of Viagra and amphetamine,
and she accepted him 
into every pulsating, waiting,
pre-lubricated orifice with breathless
adoration and acquiescence.

Over and over, 
with random, alternating camera angles,
anything human sounding
was drowned out by music 
designed to mirror the repetition 
and presumed excitement of the scene.

Long ago, the makers dispensed with
the pretense of exposition 
or dialogue – it just got 
fast forwarded past anyways.

Having seen what felt like
hundreds of these loops,
in retrospect,
I resent how they 
hijacked my sense of who I was 
and what I wanted,

because while I still had my virginity,
I let them steal my holiness,
and I wish I could get it back. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Like In The Old Days (Prompt: Like ____)

Yesterday
we walked through
the furniture warehouse,
past rows of cast-off,
refugee surroundings,
and amused ourselves
with their garish,
outdated style.

These dusty pieces
reminded us of pasts
where we grew up
unaware of each other.

I tried
to make you laugh
like in the old days,

when you were
the most important audience
that I ever wanted to win over.

And now,
even though we fall asleep and
wake up next to each other everyday,
I still want to entertain you,
to make your day lighter,

to bring forth
your honeyed laughter,

which I have always
translated
as proof of
your love and approval,

which I still need

just like in the old days.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Big Picture, IMHO (Prompt: The Big Picture")

“The Big Picture, IMHO”

No dogma,
no apologetics,
no complicated legalism:

only Love,

and if that’s too abstract,
then try Jesus,

not the Bible,
not the church,

just Jesus.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Genetics Don't Lie (Prompt: Snapshot)

I always thought I was adopted
and for a long time felt
there was a silent conspiracy
to keep the real truth from me.

Then I saw the snapshot.
I was in my teens
and I was wearing
an Air force Dress uniform.

I couldn't remember
this yellowed and bent
photograph
taken at an
unrecognizable angle
and venue.

Was it in a school play?
Was it a costume party?

Upon closer inspection
it was my father taken
when he was serving
in 1955.

That monstrous nose,
wide forehead
friendly smile,

genetics don't lie,

Mystery solved.



Friday, April 15, 2011

David [name withheld] (Prompt: Profile Poem)

His hubris is such
that he often says
his six-word story is
“God created,
and so must I.”

In everything he does
he tries a creative approach.
While this is not
always successful
(as evidenced by his previous
failed love relationships),
he relies upon
the element of surprise
to compensate for
true talent and competence.

He is most proud
of his second marriage
and how seamlessly
he became a husband
and assumed the paternal role
to Anita’s pre-existing
family.

In his free time
he is a voracious reader
of nonfiction,
with his favorite genres being
show business biographies,
theological treatises
and reference books.

He loves all forms
of music,
and his favorite all-time band
is the New York Dolls.

He started writing
when he was 15,
and while there have been
long periods of inactivity
in the intervening 33 years,
writing is the single
most gratifying work
he’s ever done.

When he writes
he is no longer
overweight or
Mexican or
awkward or
unwanted or
lonesome.

True to his credo,
when he writes
he creates himself,

and it amuses him,
and thankfully,
he amuses easily.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mr. Secret Keeper (Prompt: Ain't None of My Business)

I’m Mr. Secret Keeper,
and I’ve heard it all,

from the time you went down
on your own fraternity brother
when you were drunk
and tried to tell me it was hazing,

or the abortion
that you pretend
never happened,

or that laptop computer
that your boss still thinks
was stolen out of your office
but is actually hidden
in your apartment
in the bookcase
by your “Employee of the Month”
certificate,

and how you tell all those kids
at the church youth group
to wait until they’re married,
but they don’t know
that you’re really
just a Born Again Virgin.

I didn’t tell about
that Chinese kid
you said you adopted
but you confessed
you purchased,

and I just listened
when you told me
how your prick of a spouse
made you participate in
a threesome with
his meth’d out whore
to “save your marriage.”

I’ve heard it all
and I’ve kept your secrets,  
because I know
in times of my weakness
and failure

I've confessed my secrets
my sins
but I can’t always remember
to whom.

So,
out of mutual cosmic respect
for privacy,
discretion,
and decency,

we’ll not speak of these things
anymore.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lynda Warren, Ph.D. (Prompt: An Old Relationship)

During our first session
she took copious notes
of everything I said,

I counted fourteen pages.

“How many pages 
do you normally take
on a new client?”

She smiled,
“Four.”

This tall, unpretentious 
woman
with a friendly,
comforting smile

helped me through 
so many of my darkest 
hours.

I often remember 
what she said
about leading
a balanced
and authentic life,
true to her gentle Buddhist
nature.

I still hear her voice,
part-maternal
part-rabbinical
telling me
it’s not about making a 
right or wrong choice, 
but rather 
a skillful choice.

She retired three years ago
and I have stopped looking
for her successor:

there is none worthy.

So, wherever you are
in your peaceful,
verdant 
retirement,

I send you loving thoughts 
prayers
and sincere gratitude

for your wisdom
and compassion

as I changed from 
a thinking machine 
into a feeling person.

Namaste, 
Dr. Warren.