The end of the working day – and week and term.
And yet this laborer has labor left –
A bundled load he’s trundling home tonight.
He’s left the school. It hulks behind his back.
The football field lies white behind its fence.
But on the sidewalk, by the tree-trunks dark,
The sullied snow is melting by degrees.
He looks ahead and sees a magic sight –
A silver train on high, with lighted cars…
It slows and pauses for its station-while –
And then – shazam! It roars and vanishes…
New Utrecht Avenue. He turns towards right.
He’s walking homewards, towards the waiting sea,
Which still is distant. Here is tar, concrete –
With streetlights casting shadow prison-bars…
He walks beneath – and overhead, the trains
Come roaring by. They drown out thought and speech.
And yet, in all of this, he finds release.
2014 January 31st, Fri, 8:30 pm Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York This describes part of a walk home from New Utrecht High School in southwest Brooklyn, along 80th Street and then along New Utrecht Avenue. The D and M trains run here above the second road, on an old track supported by rusted iron columns. These trains end their runs from Manhattan through Brooklyn at the Coney Island terminus.
When right and wrong have been confused,
What hope is left for rectitude?
Our emperors have ethics low –
And this, our species tolerates.
The top is rotten, that we know –
But can we live with rot below?
We watch, in safety, from afar,
The horrors of a distant war.
It fascinates and titillates,
But when it reaches where we are,
Do we react as humans should,
Who plainest truth, till then, refused?
How easily we judge one, who
We haven’t met or listened to.
And even when we have, we let
Our prejudice obscure the facts.
Yet if we’re wrong, with scant regret,
Our errors, kindly, we forget.
We string a story line, with which
We weave a fantasy that’s rich.
This gives us rationales for acts
That only served to scratch an itch.
And having woven so, we view
That narrative as “I” or “you”.
And some now fly in jet-planes through the sky,
While others labor closer to the dirt.
And surely none would either space deny,
But who does more of harm to this our Earth?
Some fly across the continents and oceans
For reasons every human understands.
But others fly, as part of world-elites,
To propagate the ills that plague our lands.
Yet these, who fly in arcs across the blue,
Are adulated by our pundits wise.
There may be sky enough for pundits too,
But is there oil enough – as waters rise?
“The wealth-creators” is the term that’s used
For flyers high – they make, we’re told, the wealth.
Yet one more term, in ignorance, abused!
Do tell us, why we still should worship stealth? \1
The theft of labor – that is nothing new.
On that was built the empires of the world –
But never on the scale that now proceeds,
As all the planet is, in hellfire, hurled.
We each were one among the myriad,
As person or as species, part of a whole,
With all our conflicts, still in harmony,
And playing, each, an individual role…
For each has senses – so that each perceives
What’s best for each and for the others too.
If a cell or other being does not care
To listen, then – it's deafness, it will rue.
Can this, our world, bear such an overrun
By one deaf species, maddened, cancerous?
And does this species have, as destiny,
This lunacy? For what’s become of us?
We have the financiers, the ones with cash,
And those who serve them, in their penguin suits –
And then the masses, laboring for bosses –
And then, there’s jet-planes, bombs – and marching boots.
For who can stand against the megatons?
And who can down the devil-drones that fly?
Omnipotent, omniscient are those
Who fly above – while village orphans cry.
The brigand kings, their lords, the emperors,
And all the ruthless feeding chains below,
Were gone, we thought, with “rights divine” and worse.
But now we’ve more, to whom we all should bow?
The empires gave, to each, a place, indeed,
In which, at rung on ladder, each could toil.
A few could climb, on others, towards the top,
While most, near bottom, worked the planet’s soil.
But now our emperors are globalized.
We’re cogs in gears, within their great machines.
And where’s the place, where we can flee their reach
Or hide our children from their venal schemes?
Our kids, corrupted by what’s marketed
From all around, ignore the words we speak.
They eat of fire – so they each then burn,
And in their turn, yet more of havoc wreak…
So classes new are born and take their place.
They toil, consume – as profits rise, like cream.
What’s left of cultures, profiteers deface,
As missiles, guns and jails enforce this “dream”.
Whichever nation tries to dam this tide
And so survive, however small its bay,
Is flooded, by the dollar, as the plane
That flies on high ensures that all obey.
A state that tries to sing a different tune
Is quickly crushed – or suffocated slow.
It's demonized – until we all agree
That states like it should bleed to death and go.
Its leaders, pressured, may then means devise
To stay in power – means of brutal force.
And this adds powder to our media’s guns.
Our leaders stay upon their ruthless course.
For what they do – or what our allied states
May do – are not revealed to us.
Who bulldozes the shelters that are left
Or bombs from high – except the goons we trust?
And there’s resistance – here and there, we see
The workers, peasants or the tribesmen rise.
And then they’re crushed, with hammer-blows, while we
The sorry truth, but rarely might surmise.
We scarcely know, what happens down the street,
Much less, what occurs in another city.
So when the flyer makes his distant deal,
Who’s there to watch – or those, who suffer, pity?
Our minds determine what we humans are.
Who captures minds, directs what humans do.
And so are media used to start a war –
Or make us work to buy a product new.
For guns and bombs alone do not suffice.
Along with fear, they’ve yet more tools to use.
For every human virtue, there’s a vice
That works – to capture, weaken and abuse.
And seeing their societies rot, we see
That some, alarmed, for reasons right or wrong –
To privileges, rights, as case may be, preserve –
Have grown suspicious of the siren song.
So there’s resistance of another kind,
That rears its head and howls with ancient fury.
To violence, it answers loud in kind.
A “holy book” is made the judge and jury.
Go read the Torah, Bible or Koran.
Hear Krshna weasel Arjuna in rhymes. \2
Of what was lauded in those ancient texts,
You’ll hear the echo then, in present times.
In our Manhattan, as the workers toiled,
The towers rose in grandeur in the skies.
And then they fell. But others rise again.
So who has won? A widow softly cries.
In the autumn sky, a plane that arced and dove.
And Sodom then it was, in Mammon’s city. \3
So zealots here repeated, as they did
In Bamyan, an ancient, sorry story.
But it was wealth that challenged wealth that day
And does – across the globe, as angels dark
Do battle, as the people cringe and die.
Beware, those streaks that through the heavens arc!
2014 January 18th, Sun. & 25th, Sat. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
1. The word "stealth" has been used here in its original (now archaic) sense.
2. The reference is to the Bhagavad Gita, in which the god Krshna persuades a reluctant warrior, Arjuna, to try to slay, in battle, his childhood mentors, relatives and friends.
3. Bamyan, in Afghanistan, was where the huge statues of the Buddhas stood, until they were dynamited by the Wahabi extremists, not long before they successfully attacked the Manhattan towers as well as the Pentagon. The fierce monotheistic zeal recorded in the old Hebraic texts survives and manifests itself in this and other ways. This zealotry is also utilized, as always, to reach towards worldly ends.
Why Think Ahead? Now Sunday ends. From mostly sleeping through it, I find that nothing I had planned is done. So I could stay up late and try to do it, Or I could sleep. Now which would be more fun? If only I had made my life’s decisions On this criterion, I might happier be. But other things, like duty, diligence Had interfered – as I can finally see. And so, with insight, I will now retire And try to sleep. My lids are drooping low. And if I can’t? Well then, I’ll lie awake. Why think ahead? For soon enough, I’ll know. If only I had lived my life this way, Not thinking of the morrow, till tomorrow, My life and that of others might have had Some more of joy – and less, perhaps, of sorrow. 2014 January 20th, Mon., 12:56 am Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn, that caresses city streets.
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn, that has issued from the sea.
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn, that has softened every light.
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn, in which I now delight.
As I’m walking home this evening, I am breathing in the air.
It is cool and sweet and fragrant, with the moisture of the sea.
As I’m walking home this evening, I can see the lamp-lit mist.
And the trees are standing silent, by the breath of ocean kissed.
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn and it’s settled on the streets,
There’s a mist tonight in Brooklyn, that’s the reaching out of sea.
As I’m walking home this evening, I can see the walkers by,
And it seems that I am dreaming, as the mist is streaming high.
As I’m walking home this evening, I am gentled by the mist,
As I’m walking home this evening, I have found a little peace.
As I’m walking home this evening, there’s a stillness in the street,
As I’m walking home this evening, there’s a stillness in my heart.
2014 January 15th, Wed., 10:23 pm Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
Sunshine on the meadows wide, sun upon the sea,
Everywhere I look, I find a world that smiles with me.
Rolling surf on beaches, wind that whistles through the pines!
The mountain tops are singing – and I understand their lines!
On days like this, I float with clouds across the sky of blue.
The weeks go by and still I know that I’m in love with you.
The scents of rose and jasmine rise to scent the days and nights.
In songs of nightingales and larks, this lover’s heart delights.
The moon is rising yonder, and it soon will light the sea. \1
On such a night, who walks upon the shore with thirsting me?
Come Juliet, bless Romeo with this, his only chance,
With you, his one and only, by the moonlit waves, to dance!
You’re Verona's fairest flower, I’m your honey bee!
Come, my Juliet – and dance away this night with me!
We’ll listen to the nightingale – there, he's calling, hark!
And come the dawn, we’ll waken to the singing of the lark.
Juliet, to Romeo:
Oh Romeo, your verses paint a picture, true, of bliss!
But did you once, from Rosaline, attempt to steal a kiss?
A little bird is tweeting that you did, you did, you did!
But Rosaline, she ran from you, and with her nurses hid.
If Juliet gave in to you, then would you think her easy?
The thought of this disturbs her heart and makes her stomach queasy.
The nightingale is singing, as you set my heart aflutter.
But when the lark replaces him, what words will you then utter?
The moon is rising and the night is fit for lovers’ trysts.
But Montagues fight Capulets with swords, not merely fists!
I fear that this, our newborn love, is from its birthing doomed.
For if we are discovered, then we both might be entombed.
Too little, of the ways of men, has this, your Juliet, seen.
Romeo's her elder, since she's yet to reach fourteen. \2
Now go, my darling Romeo! I’ve loved your serenade!
Now go, before we’re found – and so, a sad example, made!
Romeo to Juliet:
You ask that I should go – and this, I hardly can believe!
Could love be so inconstant – and a lover’s heart deceive?
But what you say commands me, dear! Before I leave – a kiss!
To part without this seal upon our love would be remiss.
Juliet to Romeo:
Oh Romeo! You’ve won my heart! I would not have you go!
I only wish that you could stay and captivate me more.
Come now, before you go – and take, from Juliet, her heart.
Your lip upon my lip – and then, we shall, as lovers, part!
2014 January 14th, Tue., 10:14 pm Eyetalianhurst, Brooklyn, NY
1. Some careless liberty was taken here. As I found out later from my friend Vivek, Verona is not by the sea.
2. This was the ill-fated heroine's age, as stated by her father, in William Shakespeare's play, Romeo and Juliet.
I asked a gentleman I met the reason for existence.
He told me God so willed it – and we each should seek repentance.
I asked him where to find his God, so I could push this further,
And silently, he pointed up. If looks could kill, he’d murder.
I climbed a mountain high to be, to God above, that nearer.
But when I sat atop the peak, that reason wasn’t clearer.
I thought I saw Him in a cloud – dreadlocked, fiercely bearded.
I gave a shout. He disappeared. Perhaps He had not heard it.
I sought to ask a Buddhist monk. He said to me, “Nirvana!”
And handed me, in silence, with a smile, a small banana.
Was I to eat it? Could this be the reason I was born?
I pondered this. The more I thought, the further I was torn.
Perhaps I should not eat it – simply watch my own desire?
Could this, perhaps, extinguish what remained of mortal fire?
I puzzled on this – till, at last, I fell to sleep and dreaming.
And there I met a madman, in a valley, madly screaming.
“Why do you scream, oh madman?” I then asked the one insane.
He danced for me a crazy jig, as if to entertain,
But then advanced upon me with a wild and staring eye.
I tried to run – but woke instead – not knowing, still, the why.
2014 January 11, Sat., 2:09 pm Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
I asked an ancient, stooped and seeming wise,
The purpose of this life, in which we race
Towards our ends, encountering the lies
Connivers tell, but rarely finding trace
Of sense or reason – till we endings face.
I’d hoped she give me comfort – kernels, sage,
That she had gathered through her lengthy life
Or finally found as wisdom came with age.
But what she said then sliced me like a knife.
“I only know this world’s a senseless stage.
“So each is born, beneath the changing sky
Of this, our planet, whirling ‘round its sun,
Not knowing even whence she came or why,
To join this race, until, at end of run,
No wiser, she is told it’s time to die.”
So said that ancient, who then shortly died.
And still I wonder if she had it right.
But those I’ve asked have either glibly lied
Or being honest shed no further light,
Except to say that they had lived and tried.
We’re born, beneath the constellations vast,
Not knowing whence or why or whither, yet
We each remember bits of what was past
And try our best to other things forget,
Until it’s time for us to breathe our last.
We suffer – yet, we still may have our joy –
Like night and day, and yearly round of seasons.
The genius, childlike, tinkers with his toy
And cries, when it is taken. Yet, for reasons,
Even serfs might ask, whom lords employ.
So since my race is nearing now its end
And since exhaustion addles now my brain,
I ask, if you are one who won’t pretend,
But truly knows the why for joy and pain,
That reason, promptly, to this seeker send.
But you might say, “A purpose, each must find.
For some, it’s self, for others, appetite.
And others, who have natures that are kind,
May spend their lives in serving. Who is right?
The play is that within the sentient mind.
“For some, it’s children, spouses, work.
For some, it’s duty – or it’s nation, god.
Some labor long – and others swiftly shirk.
Some fly on high, while others till the sod.
Do dogs ask why? They’d only masters irk.
“We humans are but one among the beasts.
What purpose has an octopus or ant?
A bear or human, on a salmon, feasts.
Was that its purpose? Preachers well may rant
But you had better ask the plants and yeasts.”
But I am putting phrases in your mouth.
I open mine, beyond when I should close it.
I still could talk, about it and about.
But would one talk, who truly, truly knows it?
I ask again – and humbly exit out.
2014 January 11, Sat. 3:10 am Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
When Ice Isn't Nice When there's ice on cement, then beware! Together, they can be a painful snare. And if you're older, frailer, then your hip May not survive that sudden, fatal slip. I skate upon the ice in sneakers, while I keep my body low. I glide and smile. Both shoes on ground, a "safer bet", I call. A base that's wider may prevent a fall. A fall, relaxed, is gentler on the bones. But never use, on ice, your mobile phones! I understand this might not be your tea. But gently go -- and always careful be. 2014 January 5th Sun., 8:05 pm Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
I met today, amidst the snow, a man I’ve known awhile,
Who stood in ragged clothes, while I was bundled head to feet.
A poet was this man, and when I asked him then, discreetly,
Why he did not dress like me, he answered, with a smile,
“I dress the same, no matter what the season. There are trees
That clothe themselves throughout the year – yet are, in winter, bare.
But just as there are men like me, who, whistling, blizzards dare,
So there are evergreens, like pines, that winter cannot freeze.”
But I had grown impatient. So I cleared my throat and said,
“I’ve known you now for many years, and so I’ll speak my mind.
‘To those who best apply themselves, to them is Fortune kind.’
If only you were working, you’d be better clothed and fed.”
The poet, he was silent for a moment. Then he turned
Towards me and he smiled again, although I knew I’d wounded.
“There’s work and there is work,” he said, “and just with that, I’d end it.
But I have also known you long. Our friendship, each has earned.
“And so, I’ll speak now seriously, no longer just in jest.
I feel I should explain myself, at least perhaps to you.
For I have lived for long – and so, with years remaining few,
I should not leave, misunderstood by those who knew me best.
“I’ve lived a life of poverty, as others often said,
And yet not lacked for anything, except what can’t be bought.
By most of the Enticements, I have never yet been caught,
Except the Muse of poetry, to whom I’ve long been wed.
“So when I’m dead, if burial of ashes then is fit,
Upon the tombstone, you can write, ‘He wrote his fill of verses,
And for this crime, received in time his fill of all our curses,
But never seemed to mind – or ever made an end of it.’
“And if my writings then are burned – or verses thrown in trash,
Remember then, that though I worked as hard as any other,
I never did, throughout my life, cause much by way of bother,
And neither did my labors or my verses garner cash.
“So if I’m judged by standards that are mercenary or
Derived from views that value only what is deemed ‘productive’,
Then surely I will be condemned. For I was neither active
In such pursuits – nor think that these are all we’re living for.
“But if I still have one complaint, it then is surely this –
So many ways there are to live awhile and then to die,
And yet we spend our lives ensnared by every dressed-up lie,
While leaving naked truth aside – and so, our chance of bliss.”
I’d listened to his verses, in his singsong nasal mumble,
And when he stopped, I saw that he was shivering from cold.
And if I were a braver man, or harsher, then I'd scold
This poet for his foolishness – that came out in a jumble.
But being who I am, I only told him, “I have listened.
Perhaps you ought to hurry now, to where you can be warm.
It’s freezing – and I fear that, in these clothes, you’ll come to harm.”
He turned to leave. And at his chin, I saw a drop that glistened.
2013 January 4th, Sat. (stanzas 2-5 added Sun., early morning) Bensonhurst, Brooklyn