Thursday, May 29, 2014

What Workers Built

What Workers Built

While walking home from work today, I saw
the roads and sidewalks, elevated rails,
the houses – and the rows and rows of trees.

And all of these were silent, mute and still,
and yet it seemed they quietly spoke to me.

For as I walked, in end-of-day fatigue,
I thought of those who’d worked their days like me…

The city’s workers built those asphalt roads,
those concrete sidewalks and those iron rails –
and all the drains beneath, the workers laid.

And houses then were built, on vacant lots,
by other workers, in their many trades.

And yet more workers planted rows of trees –
so ravaged, ‘prisoned earth could yield again
its balm of grace to salve demented souls…

And those, insane, like I – and you, perhaps –
who dwell in cities, feeding off its veins,
while laboring to feed its grinding mills –
can walk these city streets, at end of day,
with gratitude – or not – to those before,
who built those things – and even planted trees,
so from our madness we could pause – and sense
there still is sanity and beauty left…

2014 May 29th, Thu. 8:21 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Teacher's Tale

A Teacher’s Tale
I’m a teacher, I’m a teacher – a teacher, that is me!
I’ve been teaching close to forty years, and still am teaching, see!
But I’m a burnt-out teacher now, and students might complain
That he, who tries to teach them, doesn’t seem to have a brain.

And how can I explain to them, oh how can I explain,
That teaching close to forty years can burn away a brain?
It seems as if a current strong was driven through my head.
Whatever little wits I had – that current burned them dead.

So I’m a burned-out teacher, oh, a brainless, addled fool!
But why then am I teaching still – in this old city school?        \1
There’s nothing else that I can do, except to teach my classes.
And so it is with teachers – as it also is with asses.

For when an ass – or mule or horse – has worked until it’s old,
There’s nothing that it’s useful for – it even can’t be sold.
For in the past, it still had use, for turning into glue,
But now that’s out, so nothing’s left, so what can “owners” do?

And some, whose hearts are kinder, they may put it out to pasture,
And wait for it to buckle and to add, to earth, its moisture.
But others, they dispose of it – in a manner rough or gentle.
And so it is for workers – be they physical or mental.

And some may say – “Retirement! That’s the way for you to go.”
What little, of a life that’s spent in teaching, do they know?
For when I’m pushed out of my job, to live on a pension meager, \2
To go where worn-out asses go, I surely will be eager.

2014  May 24th, Sat. 11:55 pm
(written after six continuous hours spent checking and entering one 

week’s worth of homework and labs – admittedly, more labs than 
usual, as my students did two extra labs this week)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

1.   The high school in Bensonhurst in which I teach is close to a hundred years old.

2.   I started teaching, as a graduate student, in 1975 – and I taught, at universities, for many years after that.  I joined as a teacher in the New York City school system in 1987.   The pay then was low and continued to be so until soon after I took unpaid family leave for my parents at the start of the 2002 academic year.  I did day-to-day sub work often during those years on leave, in order to pay the rent.  But I was only able to rejoin full time in 2009, and have been working ever since.
My pension, if I retired now, would be about 30K$ (U.S.) a year, before taxes, according to the calculator at the retirement system website. And so perhaps retirement might finally be viable for me, which it wasn’t just five years ago, when that figure was about 13 K$.  It’s too bad that my earlier teaching work was not pensionable. Even if it were, it wouldn’t have helped that much, as most pensions are far from being linear functions of time – an important fact that math teachers should take the time to explain to their students – and perhaps also to their colleagues.

Apart from vital monetary considerations, it is difficult to retire if one has spent most of one’s waking hours for so many years on the teaching work.  A teacher has five classes to teach, each day during the work-week, with all of the stress that one gets from that.  If one is fortunate, one may also get some satisfaction from this, as from the other work one does after hours.
What is that work?  One is often busy, after hours and on weekends and holidays, preparing class handouts, homework, quizzes, exams, etc.  A science teacher may also have to prepare lab sheets, apart from having materials ready for labs, unless someone else has that last job.  As the student population, with its strengths and deficiencies, the curricula and even the subjects taught keep changing, what worked before no longer does.  So one has to keep changing things or doing them again from scratch, finding oneself, not only in in the teaching profession, but also in the authoring and printing business.
New subjects involve new learning, so one has to keep ahead of the students in subjects taught for the first time., which may be far removed from one's expertise.  High school classes, which nowadays usually end in state exams, are often fast-paced, so this is not easy.  All of this has to be done on the fly, after the physical, mental and emotional stress that the day-job involves.

One must also try to deal with the almost impossible correcting load.  At the high school level, this involves the daily and weekly work of often close to 170 students – and much more if one teaches labs and has to grade the lab reports. 

In many cases, various factors reduce some of these diverse workloads, but others may add to them.  I have mentioned only the things I myself have spent most time and effort on in my own work-life.  Other teachers may have other preoccupations.  And others yet might find all of this nonsensical and far removed from their own experiences.
But all of what I have outlined, if taken seriously,  can become all-consuming, leaving little or no time for even vital personal and family matters.  This is especially so when one has students with a great range of constantly varying deficiencies that have to be taken into account and compensated for, plus state exams that involve  curricula which cannot possibly be taught and learned properly in the time available, given the deficiencies that the students exhibit. *
So some of us might enter, at retirement (as experienced during periods away from the job), from all of this continuous activity and social contact, with students and colleagues, at the faux village that a school provides – some of us might enter from all of this into a vacuum, where one is faced with the four walls of one’s room.    With family and friends long dead, estranged or non-existent, when we step outside, we might find ourselves in a city full of busy strangers.  We may blame ourselves for that, but that would be little comfort.

*   In New York City, the financial squeezing and punitive "reforms" initiated by our former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and pushed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and his moneyed allies have greatly aggravated this horrible, manic predicament, for the students as well as their teachers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Gloaming

The Gloaming
So this is the time called the “gloaming”, when
The light is draining from the evening sky.
And though, before the dawn, it’s “gloaming” too,
I’ve mostly seen this at the hour of dusk.

And there’s a stillness in this twilight time,
A pause, as day is yielding place to night.
And looking at the treetops now, I see
They’re barely moving, in the faintest breeze.

And high above, the clouds are swirling, slow,
As all the sky is lit in somber grays.
But since the light is fading, all I see
Are hints of ghostly movements in that arch.

And down below – the silent, rain-washed street,
The lighted windows and the spreading gloom.
And as I walk and reach my waiting door,
It’s quiet, calm and very, very still.

In a puddle in the gutter, I can see
A window – and that gray and eerie glow.
And looking up, the greens are deepening.
The trees will soon be dark against the sky.

And while I watch, the sky is darkening too,
But slowly, making sure to take its time.
If only we would do the same, perhaps
Our twilights could be wondrous gloamings too.

But though I’ve paused to savor this awhile –
This time when time itself appears to pause,
It’s time, I realize, to climb the stairs.
There’s work that’s left that I have carried home.

2014 May 22nd, Thu., 9:47 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I was sitting by myself today
And thinking this and that,
When thoughts that weren’t mine came by
And struck me as I sat.

And how I knew they weren’t mine
I find it hard to tell.
I  know my face, I know my voice –
I know my thoughts as well.

“It’s strange,” I thought, about my thoughts
(Which weren’t really mine),
“That I can think another’s thoughts
As an actor reads a line.”

And so I sat and thought those thoughts
That came there, floating by,
Will thinking too, about those thoughts
And how they came and why.

And what those thoughts might be (or were)
I really can’t recall,
For as they came, from nowhere, so
They vanished, one and all.

But while they stayed with me, they gave
Me cause enough to worry.
I feared perhaps I’d stolen them,
For which I might be sorry.

What would I say, if someone came,
Demanding their return?
And might I then be hauled to court,
To face a judgment stern?

“I  find you guilty, Joseph Shmoe,
Of stealing something precious!
To a kennel, I do sentence you –
With angry pit-bulls vicious!”

How many levels could there be
Of thinking about thinking?
And could a mind be drowned by this –
From such a burden, sinking?

The more I thought about the thoughts
That filled my weary head,
The more my worries grew, until
I wished that I was dead.

But then I thought, it could well be
If I, that instant, died,
To thinking about thinking, still
My mind might then be tied.

And so, for all eternity,
In a kind of thinker’s hell,
My blameless soul unjustly might,
Alas, forever dwell.

“Oh here lies he who thought some thoughts
(Not his), one sunny Monday,
And so expired, his mentem crushed
By pondus cogitandi.

“And since he still was thinking when
He left our mortal world,
To hellfire, that of thinking, he
Was then, by demons, hurled.”

This epitaph could well be mine,
Inscribed upon a stone.
For purloined thoughts, I might perhaps
In a fiery hell atone.

And were perhaps these thoughts (not mine),
A snare, by devils, set?
Oh, like a fish, I’d swallowed bait!
The hook and line, I’d get!

And thinking this, I panicked and
I bolted from my seat,
While thinking that, by doing this,
Those demons, I could cheat.

For I had heard that predators
Prefer a seated prey.
From one that swiftly moves about,
They tend to shy away.

And so I hopped about – and then
I twisted and I jerked,
While hoping, by these tactics, I’d
Get rid of thoughts that irked.

And I recalled that I had seen
A dog, beset by a flea,
Behave exactly as I did –
As mad as a man could be.

I thought, perhaps I’d better flee
The confines of my house.
It’s said that sunshine is a thing
That irks the flea and louse.

And who should then come strolling by,
As I ran out my door,
But a neighbor, who was known to spy –
And to gossip, even more.

She watched me hop and jerk and twist,
And her mouth was open wide.
I saw her hand was over it,
Her tonsils, so to hide.

“Oh walk along!” I cried to her.
“It’s just a doggone flea.
I think it came from a passing bitch,
Which you, perhaps, might be!”

I saw her  eyes then open more
And stare at me in shock.
I bolted back then, through my door,
And  loudly turned the lock.

But when I heard that solid sound,
I felt a strange elation.
For lo – those thoughts had left me for
Some other destination!

I wondered whether she, who’d stood
So still, as I was moving,
Was now the latest victim of
The demon, fiercely roving.

The pestilence had passed – perhaps
To her, who’d stood and gawked.
If so, it served her right, I thought,
Who gossip sought and hawked!

“Oh joy!” I thought, “I’ve rid myself
Of thoughts that weren’t mine.
To think my own thoughts once again –
Is truly quite divine!”

How pleasantly I pass my days,
Unburdened of that weight!
How hellish life must be for her,
Who spared me from my fate!

I sometimes feel a little twinge
Of pity – but no more
Than would that minstrel of the dark,
Our Edgar Allen Poe.

2014 May 19th Mon & 20th Tue
Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The City in May

The City in May
The casual wounds that men inflict
Can linger on to cause distress.
The grace that blessed the trees has been
Replaced by stunted awkwardness.

The rain, it seems, cannot succeed
In washing grime away from trees.
And even newborn leaves of spring
Are listless, waiting for a breeze.

The beauty, from the streets, is fled
And all that’s left is ugliness.
The elegance is gone – and what
Remains is mostly tawdriness.


The sky is robbed of mystery,
The earth is drained of life.
And all that’s left is misery
And dull, unending strife.

In markets, crabs and fishes die
Their slow and tortured deaths.
The frogs and turtles sadly wait,
Till scooped with tongs or nets.

The humans go to work and back.
They’re rushing all the while.
And rarely will you see them pause
To dawdle or to smile.


But in Manhattan, devotees
Assemble still, where Mammon stands,
And though His worship now is wired,
The God of Money understands.

He understands, He understands.
He sucks from us what’s left of soul.
And more of wires and waves will weave
The shroud of pain that cloaks the whole.

But there is still, for those with time,
The near and yet-so-distant sea.
When summer comes, I’ll slowly walk
And by those sounding waves, I’ll be.

2014 May 18th, Sun., 11:46 am
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Reflections -- II

Reflections – II
There is a current deep that we can sense.
We cannot speak about it with our words.
But with that current, we can mutely flow –
Or lose our sense of it and loudly splash.

The one surrendering to the water feels
That fluid lift her surely up again.
But he, who seeks to raise himself above
The surface, finds his struggle is in vain.

We all have fights we cannot, should not shirk,
Unless we choose to still our consciences.
And each of us must fend for selves and those
Who may depend on us to live and breathe.

But there are conflicts which we make ourselves
And which we then inflict on others ‘round.
Ambition, pride, our selfishness and greed,
Our misperceptions – make this turbulence.

So let us yield our petty jealousies,
Our envies, our ambitions small and great.
And let us breathe, resolve to do what’s right
And turn, from darkness, gently back towards light.
Our sight is clouded and our hearing dulled.
We cannot feel, with skin or heart – or think.
Our reason and our wisdom, we have lost.
And why is it that we have lost these things?

The demons that afflict this world abound.
They prey on us and so we do not see.
Our child is ailing or our mother's ill,
But we are sightless or are deafened still.

What form of madness may afflict us each,
We only know for sure when it has passed,
And some of us may never know or care.
So drunkards do their damage – and forget.

There’s fear that drives us into little hells.
We wonder how we can escape from this.
We feel we cannot change the world ourselves.
Yet each can breathe – and then can gently try.

There’s much that three can do that one cannot.
But there’s a concord needed, so that three
May find that common purpose. This can be,
When each is open and is listening.

A trust betrayed can rarely be regained.
And so, we should be careful in our deeds.
For how can there be confluence, when distrust
Has built the barriers needed for defense?

A vessel, filled with water, makes, when thumped,
A softer sound than one that’s partly full.
And much of noise and violence abates,
When all have drunk enough to fill their souls.

And here, we’re speaking, not of alcohol
And other things that have their merits yet
Have also faults that plague imbibers, but
Of essence – joy and deepest suffering.

But when we’re emptied by an ebbing tide,
Then thoughts arise, like sounds within our head,
And we attempt to fill ourselves again,
With silent essence – or with nonsense loud.

So all the verses that I write arise
From discontent and from that loneliness,
To which our disconnection leads our selves,
Those fictions that can gain in strength from strife.

What’s self, what’s not, is fixed by such a line
As is imagined, yet does not exist.
It dissipates to porous nothingness,
Whenever we examine it up close.

We’re made of this and that, in interflows.
And our perception, of ourselves and things
As separate from all around and what
Was there before or will be there, is false.

But who, except the sainted, yields the self,
That last illusion, stronger than the rest,
Whose shattering or dissolution comes
As pain or joy, as torture or relief?

So beings such as you and I arise
As do the nations – and we struggle, fight
When self is threatened, fortifying self –
And so are doomed to our imprisonments.

The humbled, stripped of wisdom too, may seek
To gain their stature back and then take pride
In stupid things – and so are fooled again.
Within an emperor?  A troubled child.

How often have the tantrums of the "great"
Or all their shrewdness caused the rest such grief
That men and women, lifting arms to skies,
Have sought, from infants such, deliverance?

But there are things in which we may take pride,
But quietly – no need, that others know...
Our wee successes give us nourishment,
And so we live on satisfactions small.

When some achievement, in the human sphere,
Gives confidence and strength to us again,
We should remember then our losses past
And so regain our precious humbleness.

Some things we all may know, some other things
A few of us discern. But then there are
The things that men and ants may never ken.
And those could be the most of all there is.

So if we're like the whorls an oar may make,
We're born in pairs and dissipate with time.
But who and where our whirling twin may be,
We do not know.  We turn until we fade.

But we could also be like summer storms
That rise and rage and then are swiftly gone.
They leave behind the wreckage of the trees
As well as blessings that give life again.

What ruin have we wrought – or blessing brought?
We do not know, we live and do and die.
And all our work appears as ashes, yet
From ashes rise the firebirds once again.

Ah, love – that blessing that the heart that sees
Confers on what is sighted – what compares
With you, except that wonder that we feel
On watching, being – as the dance proceeds?

This world, of wonders and of horrors mixed,
Of loves and hatreds – who has sense enough
To know its purpose – or has wisdom still
To live a life, whose damage is the least?

Oh let us breathe once more of this, the air
That others past have breathed, that yet remained
As fresh as when the ancients breathed of it,
Until we fouled it with our devil-mills.

And let us drink of that, which others drank,
Which yet remained as pure as it was then,
Until we poured, within those waters clear,
Those effluents that now have poisoned it.

And let us softly walk upon this earth,
On which so many past have walked, which yet
Remained as fertile, till we made that earth
Ingest the toxins that our mills emit.

And let’s resolve that when we leave there’s naught
We leave behind to let another know
That we were here, except a whispering,
A fragrance or a glimmer in the dust...

The foolish seek achievement and create
The horrors that have made, of life, a hell.
The wiser seek effacement, as they work
To heal the wounds ambition always wreaks.

Who seems, to most of us, to be a fool,
Could well be wiser than we'll ever be.
And he, or she, who's worshiped now as wise,
May do, in hubris, what no fool has dared.

When all around are rushing, slow a bit.
The sun and moon appear to take their time.
The seasons take their turns, the babies grow
With all our nurturing – and then they age.

This was – and is – and will forever be.
Within this dance, we move in rhythm, rhyme
That yet allow for breaks and runs and twists.
The moment is – in which we all are free.

2014 May 17th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For What?

For What?
We aren’t. Then we are. And then we aren’t anymore.
It seems we come from nothing, live – and then, to nothing, go.
But who has strength to face this or the wit to understand it?
For all we learn, from other things, implies, “It isn’t so.”

Could something come from nothingness and vanish back to that?
“That’s magic,” you would say, “like pulling rabbits from a hat.”
And if I said it’s real, that there’s nothing up the sleeve,
The men in white might come for me and want to have a chat.

So many myths that humankind has conjured, to assure
The certainty of that which can’t be ever known for sure…
Sobriety, sobriety, it’s time for you to show
That all our gods in heavens are but treasured fictions pure…

We come from darkness into light.  To darkness, we return.
We come from silence, hear – and then, there’s silence, as we burn.
From sense-less state to sensing state, and senselessly, at end,
There’s nothing left of us, except the ashes in the urn…

But which of us will bear this and not call out to say, “No!
There was more to us than ashes, so there's still a remnant more.”
And who will hear our calling out and who will understand it?
For though it seems so senseless, there’ll be nothing left to show.

Posterity, posterity, that follows our behinds,
We leave for you the imprints of our bodies and our minds,
As children or as images, as things or streams of words.
And each of these, you will devour and only leave the rinds…

We weren’t, then we were and then we won’t be yet again.
And so it is with octopi and so it is with men.
The seasons, they return – as does the day that follows night.
And some say that we do return – for what, they do not ken.
2014 May 14th, Wed.
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Tale of Pumpkin Grand

The Tale of Pumpkin Grand
In the land of the rivers five,
And that between the two,           \1
You’ll hear the elders tell this tale
To kids – and puppies too.

And baby goats will gather ‘round
And try to hear it right.
But these will often wander off,
As puppies also might.

The puppies, they will cock their heads
As the children look astonished,
And the elders tell the story of
The Pumpkin that was banished.

“There was a time, when Veggies, Fruits
Were placed above us men.
And dogs and goats were also low
And Fruits were highest then.

“In Dilli, in a time now past,
A line of Mangoes ruled.
So Mangoes then were royalty,
As children then were schooled.

“For though the Veggies were, by far,
In number, more than Fruits,
The Fruits were cleverer – and led
By Mangoes, ruled the ‘Brutes’.

“For that was what the Fruits then called
The Vegetables all.
And strangely, Veggies long endured
This thing, as men recall.

“And many cities of our times
Existed, even then.
But each was built with palaces
For Fruits – and not for men.

“And Veggies too had quarters there
But some of these were slums.
The Veggies – they were workers then,
Though some of them were bums.

“But then, in Agra and in Oudh,
And in the west, Lahore,
A clan of fighting Pumpkins rose
To power, seeking more.

‘The Fruits have ruled for long,’ they said.
‘It’s now the Veggies’ turn.’
With zest and zeal, they spread the word
And did, with ardor, burn.

“And though the Mangoes tried, in vain,
To quell the rising tide,
The Pumpkins marched, in ordered rows
And columns long and wide.

“And by their side, in allied ranks,
Some other Veggies too
Did march along, while singing songs
And making cry and hue.

“The Cabbages and Mustard Greens,
The Spinaches and others,
They marched and sang, “We're Veggies all!
We drink of Sun as brothers!”

“And Carrots came – and even Plums
And other rebel Fruits
Who hated Mangoes, joining ranks,
For once, with all the ‘Brutes’.

“And Dilli, then, to Pumpkins fell,
With Mangoes roundly squashed.
In every town, the Fruits switched sides,
With those resisting quashed.

“But though the Mangoes long had ruled,
They had a fragrance sweet.
And Mango-kings had manners still,
And sense to be discreet.

“And though they did extract the tax,
They gave, to Veggies, gifts.
‘A petty favor, costing naught,
A canny king uplifts.’

“But Pumpkins, they were rough and rude –
A bumpkin, yokel lot.
They quarreled loudly in the streets
And on the rooftops fought.

“And when a subject could not give
The ‘rent’ that then was due,
They beat him soundly and they left
Him then to Pumpkins rue.

“So Dilli suffered several years
Of Pumpkins’ sad misrule.
And though his subjects bowed to him,
They called their king a fool.

“For he was such a Pumpkin as
Had never, past, been seen.
Some whispered he was ‘monstrous’, while
The others hissed ‘obscene’.

“Now men and goats and dogs could be
Both small and big in sizes.
But when it comes to Pumpkin – those
May sometimes spring surprises.

“For ‘Pumpkin Grand’ his title was,
And he was grand of girth.
The Vegetables, Fruits and men
Gave him the widest berth.

“When Pumpkin Grand would roll around,
The others ran for life.
The largest Mango-maid, he’d tried
To make his newest wife.

“But sadly, he had crushed her sore
Upon their wedding day.
To hospital, they’d taken her,
And there she'd lain till May.

“No other Manga would consent     \2
To wed the Pumpkin Grand.
The king's frustration, it was great.
He would not understand.

“ ‘I want a Mango-maid for wife.
No Melon, Squash will do!
If those before had Mango-queens,
So must this Pumpkin too!’

“The Mangoes were a clever lot.
They whispered and they hid.
They watched the Pumpkins’ stew-pot cook
And weighted down the lid.

“And so, when Pumpkin Grand’s mistakes
And Pumpkin-Lessers’ fights
Had taxed and tired the subjects sore,
They gathered close at nights.

“And there, with Mangoes as their guides,
They plotted, planned a strike.
The Cantaloupes, from Rajasthan,
To Dilli then did hike.

“For these were Fruits and Veggies both,
From both the sides descended.
And with their cousin Pumpkins, most
Of them were discontented.

“And be they Fruits or Veggies, those
Who couldn’t Pumpkins bear,
Towards Dilli also rolled – and vied 
For place in front or rear.”

The elders, at this point, would rise,
And clearing throats, would sing.
And children, puppies, goats would join
So all the air would ring.

“And so, in annals, it’s recorded,
The army grew to giant size.
And younger Fruits and Veggies joined,
Despite the qualms of elders wise.

“Upon that host of 'Fruits and Brutes’,
Assembled, in a motley crew,
The clouds that passed did sprinkle rain,
As the rebel army grew and grew.

“And by that sprinkled rain refreshed,
The Fruits and Veggies vowed to win
The throne of Dilli, from the king,
Whose place on it, they deemed a sin.”

And seated once again, they’d wave,
To puppies, kids and goats,
To stop their yelps and baas and all
Their other high-pitched notes.
“ ‘If sugar be the thing that makes
A Veggie be a Fruit,
Then Beets should side with Mangoes in
This battle with that Brute.’

“With whisperings like these, the Fruits
Fomented the rebellions.
And so, towards the city, troops
Of rebels rolled in millions.

“And some said, 'No! The Fruits are meant
By Nature, to be eaten.

But beasts and birds who chomp on us,
The Veggies, should be beaten!'
“No matter. Pumpkins had aroused,
In all the Plants, such ire,
That when the Mangoes roused them more,
It seemed they'd caught on fire.

“The Cucumbers, from East and West,
The Gourds, of various kinds,
And others trekked to Dilli, both
Of tough and tender rinds.

“From South and East came Tamarinds.
The Apples came from North.
And Plantains and Bananas wild
From forests issued forth.

“Upon the Aravalli hills,
Among the thorny trees,
They gathered all, below the stars,
And waited for the breeze.

“For some of them had fragrances
That carried in the wind,
So even flies in the Punjab
Could scent the fruits in Sindh.

“But Neems, with Curry Leaves, conspired
To hide the army's scent.
And so they waited in those hills,
Preparing for descent.

“And when the breeze had turned to blow
From Dilli towards those hills,
They slid towards that city, as
The water, hollows fills.

“And at the most opportune time,
When Pumpkins all were snoring,
The Fruits and Veggies struck as one,
With Beets and Eggplants roaring.

“And though the Pumpkins, when aroused
From slumber, tried to fight,
They one by one were tied to beds.
It seemed a glorious night.

“And some of those embittered joked
At Pumpkins lying tied,
‘We’ll leave you in the summer sun
Until you all have dried.’

“But Pumpkin Grand, he would not yield.
He rolled about like thunder.
And those, who saw him coming, fled
Or froze, in awestruck wonder.

“But then, the Onions devised,
With help from Garlic Cloves,
A way to quell the Pumpkin Grand,
By jumping him in droves.

“He could not stand the Onions’ scent
Or that of Garlics strong.
He struggled for a while, then fell
To sleep – and snoring long.

“They could not drag him to the Court,
So heavy was his weight.
The Judge, arriving as he slept,
Did read to him his fate.

‘Oh Pumpkin, known for your misrule,
And for the one you wed
And almost squished to pulp, we find
You snoring, by your bed.

‘But though you snore (and loudly too),
Your sentence, it is this:
To China, you are banished, there
To do as you may wish.’

“And when the Pumpkin woke, he found
Himself upon a wagon,
With ropes tied down, on a caravan
To the land of the Dancing Dragon.

“And whether he got safely there
Or not, we do not know.
But rumor has, that China still
Is where Bad Pumpkins go.

“And with the Pumpkin clan dispersed,
In Dilli, there was calm,
Though winters still were far too cold
And summers far too warm.

“And subjects still begrudged the tax
That some would call 'the rent'.
A few resisted.  Most gave in,
With sun and seed content.

“And in what form that rent was paid
And why it then was needed,
We men, who then had little say,
We never knew or heeded.

“But later, we were told, by kings,
That taxes were the rule,
And even Fruits and Veggies paid,
When Man was just a Fool.

“For all of this was long before
We men, of monkey-kind,
With help of dogs, from jackals bred
And wolves, did stature find.

“But here’s the twist. Though Mangoes schemed
To end the Pumpkins’ rule,
The Radishes rose in their stead,
As you will learn at school.

“And Radish-Strong in turn was felled,
By the Custard-Apples fooled.
And so again, by Fruits with wits,
The Veggies all were ruled…

“But that’s another story. Though
In Dilli, Pumpkins ended,
The Son of Pumpkin Grand became
A big and fearsome bandit!

“No, no, enough!  You’ve heard enough.
It’s time to go and play.
We can’t be telling you these tales
All through the heat of day.”

You’ll see the elders rise and stretch,
As puppies play in threes
And children, laughing, try to climb
Upon the guava trees.

And baby goats will seek out leaves
To nibble, as they do,
Not knowing Lettuces once ruled
And might, in the future, too.

And monkeys, seeing children try
To climb the guava tree,
Will throw at them the stunted fruits
That kids can have for free.

2014 May 10th, Sat. 8:45 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

1.  The references in the first stanza are to the Panj-aab 
and the Doh-aab.  These regions are usually spelled 
"Punjab" and "Doab". Their names come from the Farsi  
(Persian) words for five (panj), two (doh) and water (aab
cognate to Latin aqua, here meaning "river").

If one descends from the mountains that lie to the northwest

of the Punjab plains, one first encounters the Indus (Sindhu)
river, flowing south. Crossing that river and traveling east,
one meets in turn the five rivers of the Punjab: the Jhelum, 
Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.   

All of these flow southwest to join with the Indus, of which 
they are tributaries. The Indus flows south, passing next
through Sindh and then into the Arabian Sea. So the Punjab 
region may be thought of as the northern part of the Indus 
plain or valley.

Crossing the easternmost river of the Punjab (the Sutlej) and 
traveling further southeast, one enters the Doab, the land 
between the Yamuna (Jamuna) and the Ganges (Ganga
rivers (the light blue and dark blue watercourses in the map 
below).  This region is a western section of the Gangetic plain, 
in which the main flow is southeast to the Bay of Bengal.  


(You can click on the map above to see slightly enlarged 
views of that map and the other maps here. Hit the back 
arrow in your browser to return to the post.)

Although this is the specific region most often referred to as the 
Doab in the Indian context, the general term doab can also be 
applied to any region between two rivers. So parts of the Punjab,
lying between two of its rivers, are also known as doabs, with
qualifiers to distinguish them. The Rechna Doab between the 
Chenab and Ravi rivers is one such region.


2. Female Mangoes were, at that time, called Mangas.  If you're
wondering how Fruits managed to have genders, then you should
wonder even more about all the other strange things in this story.
Yet, they are all absolutely true.  If you don't believe any of it, go

ask a Cucumber.


When the wind has fallen quiet,
You can look out at the sky,
You can see the fires celestial,
As they’re burning, up on high.

When the dawn is still a whisper,
You can wake, within your tent.
You can shiver and then bundle,
On your downward trek, intent.

Where the peaks rise up in splendor,
Where no eagles dare to soar,
In that white and barren fastness,
You can trek across the snow.

In the valley, by the glacier,
Where the ice is heaped and strewn,
You can breathe a little easy
And can feel the warmth of noon.

Where the glacier spawns the river,
You can drink from crystal streams.
You can walk on mountain pastures
And be lost in happy dreams.

Where the river roars down canyons,
Where the raging waters flow,
You can listen to that roaring,
And the sound, primeval, know.

In the forests of the foothills,
You can hear the tiger growl.
You can glimpse the deer and otters
And the sudden flights of fowl.

Where the hills gave way to corn fields,
Where the sky is smiling wide,
You can row upon the river.
With the current, you can ride.

In the flatlands of the delta,
Where the crops are growing green,
You can see the rice-fields shimmer
In the afternoons serene.

In the shade, among the fruit trees,
With their fragrance in the air,
You can while away the noontimes,
Or at insects, sit and stare.

You can fish in tranquil waters,
You can bathe in morning’s light.
You can watch the cows at sunsets,
And in children’s smiles delight.

You can travel to the outskirts
Of the city and its grime.
You can labor in its alleys,
And be old before your time.

You can leave at last the city,
On the river, flowing strong.
You can watch the boatmen rowing,
Catch the lilting of their song.

Where the river meets the ocean
And the vistas open wide,
You can see the sea-gulls wheeling,
You can feel the turning tide.

In the endlessness of ocean,
Where the land is lost to sight,
You can drift, across the sunset,
To the starry, starry night…

Let the ones, who are ascending,
Plant their puny flags on peaks.
To the one, who is descending,
They should listen, when he speaks…

2014 May 9th, Friday, 11:55 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Friday, May 9, 2014

In the Tumult of the City

In the Tumult of the City
In the tumult of the city,
Where there’s rarely pause for breath,
Can we take some time for elders
Or for illness – or for death?

For it seems that in the city,
Where the money drives the time,
There's no space that's left for caring
Or for passion – or for rhyme.

And yet mothers nurse their children,
And the women nurse the old.
And there’s warmth and there is patience
In the city, bleak and cold.

You can see, amidst the hustle,
How the seasons take their time.
You can listen, through the bustle,
To the cadence and the rhyme.

There is singing in the city,
Though it’s muted by the roar,
Though the ones, who’re used to speeding,
Find the rhythms rather slow.

There is singing and there’s silence,
As there’s night that follows day.
What would singing be, if silence,
That’s at bottom, went away?

When you’re locked within a prison,
Then the silence drives you mad.
But the silence, in the open,
It can make a person glad.

If you happen to be walking,
When the rain has blessed the land,
Then the patterns, that are ancient,
You’ll begin to understand.

You can see the sky is clearing,
You can smell the dampened earth.
You can sense the life that’s breathing
And the ties of death to birth.

You might see the leaves aquiver
Or be still, in silent grace.
There is silence, in the city,
That we’ve rarely time to face.

When the cars, from streets, are absent,
When there’s quiet in the park,
You can walk, within the city,
As the daylight fades to dark.

You can sense then, in the city,
That attempts to hide the earth,
There's the planet, live and breathing,
That's the one that gave you birth.

In the freshness of the mornings,
In the heat of summer noons,
With the moon and stars at midnights,
You can taste of Nature’s boons.

In the tumult of the city,
You can watch the children play.
You can live and age and ponder,
And in twilight, fade away.

And you’ll know, that in the city,
As in village, forest, field,
Though a death may be a pity,
There’s a birthing it will yield.

2014 May 9th, Friday, 6:00 pm
Medical Office* of Drs. Paluzzo & Perlman, on 18th Ave near 82nd Street,
across from the New Utrecht Reformed Church, built 1829,
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

*  I was there just for a sudden flu-like cold and fever, that started Wed. night and led me to take a rare day off from the school job today.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Square Is Still a Rhombus

A Square Is Still a Rhombus
In Bensonhurst, I met a man,
Who said his name was Moses.
His hair was white and he had one
Of those Semitic noses.

He claimed he’d seen the Burning Bush
And talked up close with God.
I noticed then – this Moses had
A manner that was odd.

He twitched his eye and jerked his leg
And grunted when he spoke.
I wondered whether what he said
Was true – or just a joke.

If everything is possible,
Could two plus two be five?
It could be, he was talking straight –
Or simply full of jive.

I’ve always tried to give, to all,
The benefit of the doubt.
And so, I’ve fallen prey to cheats
And every kind of lout.

I said to him, “I’ve heard it said
That Moses once had brought
The ten commandments to the Jews,
Who were, at this, distraught.

“For they were told, ‘You should do this.
And this, you shouldn’t do.’
And being sore at being hemmed,
They took to blaming you.

“But is this true – or not?” I asked.
And in his manner odd,
He then replied. “It is. But I,
I put the blame on God.”

And saying this, he blew his nose
Upon the pavement clear.
I jumped aside, as mucus from
That nose of his fell near.

He grunted then and shook his leg
And twitched and twitched his eye.
I thought it best to say to him,
“I have to go. Goodbye.”

But when I turned the corner, he
Was there again to greet me.
“What’s this?” I thought, “How did this gent
Get ‘round the block to beat me?”

But he was breathing normally.
I looked at him, suspicious.
He smiled and said, “Good evening, sir.
My name, it is Confucius.”

I saw no trace of twitch or jerk.
He grunted now no more.
That nose of his had shrunken much,
It seemed, from size before.

His hair, it still was white, but sparse.
His beard was sparse and long.
His cheekbones, they were higher and
His eyes were somehow wrong.

His skin was pale and stretching thin
Upon a gaunter frame.
And yet, it seemed this man and him
I’d met were still the same.

Was this the one I’d met before –
Or his Mongolian twin?
My mind was split in half. It seemed
That neither side could win.

I stood there speechless, mouth agape.
I saw him bowing low.
And speechless still, I bowed to him,
Whilst bending even more.

“Are you the one, who brought the law
To China, in the past?”
“I am.” he said. “And I am glad
To meet with you, at last.”

My mouth again fell open, wide.
It closed and opened. “Why?”
He smiled once more and laughed – and then
He pointed at the sky.

I looked – but only saw the blue
And white – and blinked at brightness.
I thought it best to ask no more
And feigned, instead, politeness.

I bowed again, and so did he.
I tried then to escape.
A hand reached out. It grabbed my neck
And held me by the nape.

I squirmed and heard a voice proclaim,
“You thought that you could run.
But you forget, that I am he,
Atilla – yes, the Hun!”

He let me go. I turned around.
His skin, it now was browner.
He smiled and said. “I’m Jesus, and
I’m still an out-of-towner.”

“A bit of wine is what I need,
Along with fish and bread.
I need your help.  Which way is which
Is muddled in my head.”

I scratched my head. “Well, over there’s
A market, where you'll find
The things you need. I’ve got to go.
I hope you will not mind.”

I tried to leave. But on my back
I felt a heavy thud.
“What’s up, my man? You didn’t see
Your friend? It’s me, Muhammad!”

I turned around, but who was this?
A smiler, with a hammer.
“I’m here,” he said, “to fix your roof.
My name – it is Gotama.”

And so, that evening, I would meet
With sundry figures past.
And one by one, they speeded by –
A card-deck, shuffled fast.

Atilla was the only one
Who seemed of violent bent.
But there was one, who told me I
Did owe him still the rent.

Sankara came and so, towards
The end, did Sri Chaitanya.
Mahavira told me he
Would like to visit China.

Then Socrates and Plato sat
And shared some steaming suet.
Nanak came, as did Kabir.
They stayed to sing a duet.

I stood and watched. The last to come
Was none but Lao Tse.
But all he did was wave his hand
And wink and fade away.

In Bensonhurst, this happened and
It happened rather fast.
And all I learned was this – there’s no
Escaping from the past.

For as I neared my home I saw
A haggard apparition.
“I’m Geronimo.” he declared
And disappeared from vision.

And in his stead, there stood a man
Of Africa, and shackled.
And all around him, bidders stood
And with the seller, haggled.

And not a woman did I see,
Not even one, to break
That long parade of long-dead men,
From sleeping, roused awake.

And what was it that woke these men,
I really do not know.
Perhaps I should have asked their wives
Or mothers, who would know.

So wearily, I claimed the stairs,
Towards my rooms, to rest.
For meeting oddballs from the past,
I’d lost all trace of zest.

But snoring on my bed, there lay
Cortez – with gay Columbus.
And so I sat and typed instead,
“A square is still a rhombus.”

2014 May 7th, Wed., 3:50 am
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Either Be Owner…

Either Be Owner…
This is the age in which business rules,
And those who resist, they are labeled as fools
Or they’re crushed and they’re killed, and we rarely will know,
For if you are heard, then away you will go.

This is the age in which business is king,
And the praises of business, the worshippers sing,
For business is blessed as the work of the Lord,
And those who defy Him, He smites with his sword.

So yes, in this age, it is Business that’s God.
And woe will betide those who think that is odd.
The priests of Big Business are pouring the wine
And chanting their paeans to Business, Divine.

But yet, it’s the mother who nurses her spawn,
And yet, it’s the father who rises at dawn.
And would there be business if workers would shirk?
And would there be wealth if it weren’t for work?

And see, it’s the students and teachers who strive
To learn and to teach what is needed to drive
The engines of business.  The drivers of wealth
Are the workers who work till they’re failing in health.

And then they’re disposed of.  They’re useful no more.
For a job that’s now vacant, you can pick from a score
Who are needing a job, who’ve been fed and been taught
By their parents and teachers, too often for naught.

But the needs of Big Business cannot be ignored.
For the cash that it offers, our selves, we have whored.
And we’re sending our children to school to be schooled,
But in what, is the question, for the ones who’ve been fooled.

We’re racing, we’re racing. The president says
We must race from our births to the ends of our days,
Competing, competing with the nations of Earth,
With our brothers and sisters in the land of our birth.

Prosperity, jobs and the dream!  We progress!
Never mind that we live in a god-awful mess!
We shall clean up our corner and sock it away.
For the dollar’s what matters.  We hear and obey.

For this is the age in which Business is Christ,
Muhammad and Moses. The bigger Its heist,
The more is Its Glory.  We’re soldiers of God.
And our God, it is Business!  And it isn’t so odd…

For the God our ancestors had worshipped was seen
As the Lord who did rule in the realms unseen,
As the lords of the land did then rule over those,
Who were peasants and led by the ring through the nose.

As the cattle were led, as the bullocks were worked,
So the peasants were led, and the ones who then shirked
Would be punished.  And those, who delivered their shares
To the lords of the land would then live to have heirs.

So we’re bred to be docile and to bow to our lords,
And we’re bred to be warlike and to battle with swords
For the sake of our rulers, so that rulers have wealth,
While we work all our lives till we’re failing in health.

And so now it is “Business” that is served as religion,
And it’s “Owners” who’re bowed to. We’re in their dominion.
So hail to Big Business, to the Mighty, who own!
And we, who are workers, from labors will groan.

And that is but fitting, as the Social Darwinians
Have preached, so convincing the laboring minions.
So the Hindus had castes, and with each in its rung,
They could stand on each other, while hymnals were sung.

Oh praise to the ladders that humans have wrought,
With the workers at bottom, in their laboring caught,
While the ones who are smarter are climbing the stairs
By stepping on others – and putting on airs!

Oh a suit and a tie, it will serve you much more
Than the time that you spend on the detail, the chore.
And the more that you hang with the suits, you will find
That the chores and the details are best out of mind.

For that is the work of the workers, my friends!
So leave that to workers, who work till their ends.
It is best if you leave that to workers and strive
To climb up the ladder, until you arrive.

But even the ones, at the top, they can see
There are others, who’re climbing – the top-dogs, to be.
So they buy them and kick them, and also ensure
That the ones at the bottom are kept there for sure.

For it’s all about profit, and the less that is paid
To the workers, the more, of that profit, is made.
So the workers are needed, but are kept in their place,
And they’re prodded to buy things and step up the pace.

For it’s labor and markets that are needed, you see.
For what, with no labor, would a businessman be?
And who, without markets, would line up to buy
The things and the services workers supply?

If the worker is working and buying as well,
Then the business is booming and everything’s swell.
But the ones, who’re contented with this are the ones
Who don’t know the power of wheelers and guns.

For it’s all about power – and wealth and its growth.
And those, who’re content, they’ll be losing them both.
So expansion, expansion, is what is then needed.
More markets, more labor – but labor, defeated.

Oh hail to the Capital, essence of all,
That giant that towers and grows yet more tall.
And some call it Mammon and some call it greed.
But those call it Capital, who know it indeed.

And all that feeds Capital, cunning and shrewd,
Is worthy of worship, with essence imbued
That’s sacred and holy.  And that is the creed
Professed by the Owners, who are ruling indeed. 

So hail to Big Business, to the Owners, who’re great.
It’s time for the lowly to get used to their fate.
And if they are smarter, their climbing, they’ll start,
Adroitly and early – for climbing’s an art.

For this is the age of the Businessmen, oh!
And remember, advancers, I’ve told you it’s so.
To the ones, who’re not climbers, be ruthless, my friends.
Remember, the means do not count – it’s the ends.

And the start and beginning is profit. The dollar
Is what you should focus on.  Let the mob holler.
For they are just cattle, to be prodded and poked,
To be herded to slaughter, with Business invoked.

Big Business is King. It is Queen, it is God!
And death to the ones who consider this odd!
For this is the age of the Businessmen, oh!
So either be Owner, or be C.E.O.!
2014 May 3, Sun., 7:06 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

With Dying Leaves

With Dying Leaves
I walked upon a winding path in autumn in the woods.
The leaves were crunching underfoot, a chill was in the air.
The afternoon was still that day, and I could hear the birds
That called out clear from far away – I could not tell from where.

I walked upon a winding path beneath the soaring trees,
With leaves that ranged in colors from the greens to burning reds.
And some of these were drifting down, as I was slowly walking,
Looking at them lying there, like corpses in their beds.

But even those in withered states were blest, in their repose –
Composed, and left with beauty, grace, as humans rarely are,
Whenever it is time to leave – for some may go in peace,
But others mostly don’t, as we're forever roiled by war. 

I walked upon a winding path – as all our lives we do.
It was autumn, with the fallen leaves like corpses on the ground.
And some were crunching underfoot, as some of us are crushed.
And far away I heard the birds – a distant, peaceful sound.

And I remember fragrances – the scents of dying leaves
And other scents that issue forth from woodland in the fall.
If only our departures were as fragrant as were these,
We wouldn’t mind, we wouldn’t mind – our dying, not at all.

2014  May 3rd, Sat., 3:40 pm
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Oh What to Do?

Oh What to Do?
I saw a tulip blooming red
Beside an apple tree.
For just a while, I thought that you
Were once again with me.

I saw a cloud go floating by
Upon a sea of blue.
For just a while, it seemed that I
Was once again with you.

I heard a bird that warbled loud
Upon a cherry tree.
For just a little while, I thought
You walked again with me.

I saw, through clouds, a shining moon
That slowly swam in view.
For just a little while, it seemed
I walked again with you.
It’s spring again, and days and nights
Are blessed by the season’s grace.
But everywhere, I hear your voice
And see again your face.

The scent of jasmine in the night,
Of roses in the day,
Bring back to mind those days and nights
Before you went away.

Oh what to do in springtime, when
The tulips are in bloom,
Except to shut myself away
Within a darkened room?

For if I venture out, I see
The sun and moon and sky.
And then I ask myself, why you
So early had to die…

Oh what to do in spring, I ask,
When you are all around,
And yet, although I call and seek,
Are nowhere to be found?

They think I am a madman, who
Is talking to the sky.
And all I seem to say is this –
Oh why, oh why, oh why?

2014 May 2nd, Fri.
Brooklyn, New York


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Signs of Spring

The Signs of Spring
For winter’s subjects, where its rule is harsh,
The long-awaited spring is cause for joy.
The pores are opened, that the winter closed,
So plants and beasts alike can breathe at ease.

The ice has thawed upon the frozen lake.
The fields are basking in the strengthened sun.
And in the city, winter clothes are shed
As warmth and sunshine favor streets again.

But what would spring be like without the trees,
Whose leaves in April bring to mind the down
That softly starts to grow at puberty –
Or if no birds appeared, to chirp and sing?

And what would spring be, sans the blooms that blaze
In roadside gardens, tinted fireworks each,
Or sans the grass that greens the earth beneath,
As winter’s chasteness yields to vernal surge?

And what would spring be like without the rain
That gently drifts – or lashes roofs with zest?
Whenever winter’s parched our souls for long,
It’s drafts like these that finally slake our thirst.

What summers are, to those in torrid zones,
The winters are, to those in polar realms.
At summer's end, as clouds and rain are bliss,
So winter's ending in the springtime is.

The winter drains away the source of life.
The children sicken and the elders pine.
Then spring appears and seems to fire anew
Those batteries that winter had discharged.

So spring brings hope again to weary hearts
That winter burdened with its weight of woe.
And as we feel the sun upon our skins,
It seems to wash away the gathered grime.

The signs of spring are everywhere at once
And winter soon will be a memory.
And though we’ve lived our share of seasons, this,
The waking up – it wakes us yet again.

How many winters more, how many springs?
How many summers past and autumns gone?
And yet, at April’s end, we greet this spring,
With gratitude for being still alive.

Without the winter, could there be a spring?
Without the hunger or the thirst, a feast?
So yin and yang, conjoined, give rise to all,
To seasons, to despair and hope reborn.
2014 May 1, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York