Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Encounter

March Encounter

So March has end, with hints of better days.
The twigs are taut with buds, but winter stays.
For though the city streets were washed by rain,
There’s snow that’s coming – so the forecast says.

I see an elder, trudging down the road.
He's stooped by winter and his heavy load.
I look at him, as in a reverie,
And I am him, in a transcendental mode.

He walks the streets and sees the buds and dreams
That winter’s gone, with all its harsh extremes,
And gentle spring is here, with smiling warmth...
So glaciers thaw and turn to babbling streams…

He bears his memories still of winters past
And wondrous summers that had faded fast.
And in his autumn now, he's walking slow
And wondering if this March will be his last...
But what is that, which sits within his head,
Where naught should be but there is snow instead,
Compacted into ice, and sullied, dark,
Awaiting spring, but still encased in dread?
I look away, for such a tie can lead
To knowledge that is misery indeed...
Let winter leave and spring arrive in haste,
So plants and beasts can have the warmth they need.

2015 March 29th, Sun.
(4th stanza added April 1st, Wed.)
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Clock Alarms

Clock Alarms
We aren't built to wake to clock alarms
or meant to rush to catch the train to work.
We're born to bear our shares of woes and yet
to also savor peace – and even bliss.

The more we work, the faster that we do it,
the more the profit for the "owner" class.
For workers, though, there comes a point, at which
the job becomes a hell – and yet we work.

We're caught, because we need to pay the rent,
to eat, to feed and care for those we love...
But money can't be all there is to work.
The pace can murder minds and shatter lives.

"Efficiency" has ruled the mills, in which
we do our joyless toil for sustenance.
But plants and children need their time to grow
and artisans their peace to do their work.

What's fast is often blurred as well.  And there
are things that can't be hurried, lest they lose
their quality and even lose their sense.
So eating, loving, learning – each takes time.

Impatience is the illness of our times.
It stems from all that we are pressed to do.
And so it is that we produce, consume
in a mindless haste that spreads afflictions vile.

The curse has entered in our souls. Unless
we see this and allow it to dissolve,
it will destroy whatever still remains
of peace and even life – within, without.
So let us slow:  to sense, perceive and think;
to feel and reason – so our minds and hearts
converse, as they were always meant to do;
to pay, to others, heed – and be ourselves…

But those who try to do this suffer now
in many ways – and yet they persevere.
What choice have they, who're turned towards the truth
and still have hearts, where these are hard to find?
This can't succeed, until we've gained a mass
of those, who've slowed from racing – asking why
and wherefore of their “bosses”.  Only then
will sanity return, where madness reigns.
2015 March 28th, Sat. & 30th, Mon.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

The Play—II

The Play—II 

The planet spins – and days and weeks
And months and years go by.
The play proceeds. We mouth our lines
And rarely question why.
We each could speak of our defeats,
Of all the battles lost –
Of how we struggled hard and how
We paid the bitter cost…

Or should we speak of victories,
However few the count?
For that might then fulfill our need
For cheer, in small amount…


But all we lost has long been gone
And never will return –
And  what we gained was either lost
Or will be, in its turn…

So let’s not talk of our defeats
Or victories in the past –
Our lives are acts that soon will end,
For time is flowing fast.

So let us each be silent then
And sip the present’s wine –
For be it sweet or bitter, it
Is pressed from grapes divine.
We build our lives and watch them wrecked.
And yet, we still can smile.
There’s time, within the play, to sit
And chat for just a while.
So every breath is precious, be
It drawn with joy or sorrow.
We each were born but yesterday
And will be gone tomorrow.


And though our battles might be lost
Or won and then reversed,
The others, still unborn, will come
And tread the paths traversed.

So as we view the present scene,
Reflecting on the past,
The future comes.  This act that ends –
It will not be the last.

But when that final curtain falls
And life on Earth has ended –
Will aught of consequence remain,
As men have long pretended?
2015 March 23rd, Mon
(first & last three stanzas added March 28th, Sat.)
Brooklyn, New York

American Fatalism

American Fatalism

The poor in India, suffering much, might say
that fate and fortune are the gods that rule
and when these make decisions and decrees,
the mortals then, who whimper, must accept.

But strangely, here, in these United States,
in New York City, I have found again,
among the teachers in the city schools,
the same acceptance, midst the murmuring.

“That’s how it is.” they say, and so accept
inequities and things so clearly wrong
for those they teach and also for themselves,
their foreheads should be tattooed with this phrase.

So each must earn the paycheck. This we know.
But so might soldiers say – and those, who brought
their prisoners to be gassed in Europe’s hells.
The same obedience – and the same excuse…

But soldiers suffer consequences worse
than teachers who, in open, disagree.
To tell their bosses, what is right and wrong,
they still decline.  The sad results, we see.

It’s more than that.  As wave on wave, sans sense,
are breaking down the fragments that remain
of reason and of decency, we hear
a mantra new. “That’s how it’s going to be.”

So snake-oils, by the priests of Mammon blessed,
by merchants marketed, are now purveyed.
And teachers make their students swallow it.
For we are workers, doing as we’re told...

Indeed, the factories that pass for schools,
that look like jails, in which we do our years,
as students do, were never built to be
the places where we learned to reason free.

But since they’re all that still is left of that
which humans had, when most had villages –
it’s time perhaps, to set the prisoners free –
so schools admit the light and hope again.

A simple thing – to say, to bosses, “No.
this isn't right.” – to say it softly, then
to say it loudly, once again – and yes,
not just alone – but in that chorus free…

There’s still a choice – to walk upon the path
on which we’re set, avoiding present pain –
or else to pause and choose the path that’s right,
before we enter more in hell again.

So do not say, “That’s how it is.” But say,
“That’s how it shouldn't be.” And do not say,
“That’s how it’s going to be.” But firmly say,
“That’s how we’re going to make it be.” instead.

We each can work until we’re worked to death
or find the many ways to seem to work,
while cutting corners. Or we each can say,
“We’ll do the work, but only what makes sense.”

No parent should be forced to do what’s wrong
for children that they've birthed and reared. So too,
no teacher should be forced to do what’s wrong
for students they've been trusted with to teach.

And if we lack the vision, ethics, guts,
to say this loud, to see, to judge for selves,
not things that others do, but we ourselves,
and then to act, what hope – and why complain?

When asked to dig the graves in which we’ll lie,
we either can comply or not.  To say
that’s there’s a middle way is nonsense, yet
we see the teachers shrug as they obey.

Our paychecks and our pensions – surely these
are things we work for.  Let’s admit that both
depend on what we all, in tandem, do
or not.  Marauders long have breached the gates.
2015 March 28th, Sat., 6 am
Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ekt’i Prarthona—একটি প্রার্থনা

This is a partial translation, still in progress, of

A Prayer

একটি প্রার্থনা

যদি কোনো দেবী থাকেন,
যিনি জীবের বানী শোনেন,
তা হলে আমি তাঁকে
এই ভাবে প্রার্থনা করি:

“যেখানে ভয় অন্ধকার এনেছে ,
সেখনে য়েন সাহস আলো নিয়ে আসে৷
যেখানে মানুষ সুবিচার ভুলেছে,
সেখানে তাদের যেন ন্যায় অন্যায় মনে পড়ে৷
“যেখানে অন্তর ব্যারামে কুৎসিত হয়ে গেছে,
সেখানে যেন সৌন্দর্য় তাও পাওয়া যায়৷
যেখানে পাগ্লামি চেঁচিয়ে রাজ্য করে,
সেখানে যেন স্থিরতা জায়গা পায়৷

“যেখানে নির্মম নিষ্ঠুরতা গেড়ে বসেছে,
সেখানে যেন দয়ামায়ার জন্য,
অন্তরের দৃষ্টির জন্য, থেকে যায়
একটুখানি স্থল৷”


This is a partial translation, still in progress, of

A Prayer  

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Prayer

A Prayer 

If I could pray to such a god,
as gives our pleas admission,
then I would pray perhaps like this –
and hope that she would listen.
“Where fear has cast a darkness, there
let courage be a light.
Where justice is neglected, there
remind us of what’s right.

“Where ugliness of spirit reigns,
let beauty still be found.
Where madness roars and rules, let those,
who're sane, regain their ground.
“Where cruelty and callousness
have settled, let there be
a little space for kindness yet –
and those, whose hearts can see.
“Where Mammon makes the workers race,
let slowing still exist.
And where the lies are gaining, there
let honesty persist.
“Where chains of every sort are used
to bind and to enslave,
let those be there, who break the chains
with thoughtful actions brave.

"Where surface gloss is all that counts
and money makes the rules,
let those who plumb the depths survive,
and not be seen as fools.
"What many see in black and white,
let some perceive in grays.
Let sense discern the subtleties,
wherever reason frays.

"Where men and women are besieged
and deafened by the noise,
let places stay for caring and
for all the quiet joys.
"Where laughter of the cruel sort
is used to keep us down,
let gentler humor rise in turn
to melt away our frowns.
"Where fear and greed and cowardice
have joined to crown ambition,
let those who see the truth resist,
so conscience gains admission.

“And if you are a god indeed,
with just a bit of will,
then give them hope, who work for good,
where others work for ill.

“And if I find that I, at end,
am beaten down and broken,
let memory still remind me then
of what I now have spoken.”
So this is how I’d pray to her,
whilst hoping that she is.
And even if she isn't – why,
I still would pray like this.

2015 March 16th, Mon.
Teachers’ Cafeteria, New Utrecht High School
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
For a partial translation of this (still ongoing)
into Bengali, please see:

Ekt’i Prarthona—একটি প্রার্থনা

Saturday, March 14, 2015



Every region of the world has song –
be it of wind, of water, trees and birds –
or that of wolves – and humans, with their drums,
their flutes and zithers, rattles, horns and more –
or just their voices, raised in hymns and chants...

And now we've learned that whales have songs that ring
across the oceans, sounding through the deep…

But only in the Americas have I
discerned a rhythm strong and primitive –
perhaps in ancient times a common one
that then was masked by various overlays –
or else evolved on these two continents –
that cardiac rhythm of the single beat.

This underlies the music of the North
and of the South, persisting till today –
and even when the Andean pipers play,
I still can hear that strong primeval thump –
the beating heart that haunts these continents,
where most of those, who once had danced and sung
amid that sound have long been “disappeared”.

Amerigo Vespucci – he's the one
whose name now marks these realms and those who've come
across the oceans to these western lands.
How may tongues were here, before we came –
how many still are spoken in the South…

I hear the medicine-man,  I hear his wail –
I hear the wolf-like yelping of the braves…
And I also hear the stomping of the feet –
the heart that’s beating still, amidst defeat…

And in the powwow, as the dancers dance,
I listen – and I hear the beaten drums.
Those drums, those feet, those pipes are speaking – but
it’s when we’ll listen that we’ll understand.

For every corner of the Earth is blessed
or cursed with such a mix of things that it
alone possesses, though the Earth is one...

What names did they, who now are vanished, have
for these, the lands that stretch between the seas?
We cannot know – but still can hear that thump.

2015 March 14th, Sat. 11:55 pm
(last stanza added March 19th, Thu. 9:04 pm)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York
Please see also: 


A pastoral scene, somewhere in Indochina

Women on a country boat, Vietnam

The songs I heard when growing up were songs
that still remembered village, forest, field.
Their cadences were softer and they still
retained the sounds of water and of wind,
the calls of beasts, of insects and of birds,
of humans hailing over distances,
of lullabies, of whisperings of love,
of village dances, dirges, plaintive chants
addressed to spirits and to feeling hearts...
But now I hear the songs of industry,
the sounds of pistons and of furnaces,
the screams of engines and of humans mixed –
as both are pushed to limits – sounds of stress,
of pain, of malice and of agony –
that mimic too the sounds of modern wars –
of screaming jets, of helicopters, guns –
the thunder of the cannons, missiles, bombs –
not music this – but hell’s infernal roar.

Bombing and defoliation, Vietnam War, 1960's-1970's



Women and children taking cover in a muddy ditch, Vietnam War


2015 February 25th, Wed.?
posted March 14th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, March 13, 2015

Far Behind

Far Behind
Far Away on a  Long and Winding Road, North Hampshire Moors



When it's normal for the teachers and the nurses not to care,
Then how can those, who’re caring, not be driven to despair?
When the ones who've done the damage can then shrug and slumber deep,
Then how can those, who're trying still to fix it, hope to sleep?
When the people still are racing, when they should be paying mind,
Then where can those, who're slowing, ever be – but far behind?


When the madness has afflicted all the world, can then the sane
Not see that they will be the ones that others call insane?
When dishonesty's expected, can the honest then not know
That they will be suspected, wherever they may go?
When the hearts of most have hardened, can the ones of softer heart
Not understand the time has come for them to then depart?


There's a road, amid the moorlands, that winds through waving fields,
With sunshine and with shadow, as every fortune yields.
And on that road I'll travel as clouds go sailing by,
With none who'll care to ask me my permit or my why.
And on that road I'll dally and take my own sweet time,
For there I'll take my tally, with reason and with rhyme.
2015 March 13th, Fri. 2:33 am
(last stanza added March 15th, Sun.)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Question

The Question
The Question


I asked a priest and then I asked a well-known sage the question,
“What’s the purpose of a life?” and I listened to their answers.
And afterwards I asked their wives and also asked their dinners.
And since their dinners couldn't answer, I'll answer here for them.
“The purpose of our living was to give the priest his dinner.”
“And our reason for existence was to feed the well-known sage.”
And how the wives had answered, I could write down here as well.
But I will not, since their curses are not fit for such a page.
2015 March 12th, Thu.
Brooklyn, New York

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Skeletons

The Skeletons
A field of daffodils, Morton Arboretum, Chicago


I saw a row of skeletons
that all appeared to grin,
it seemed as if in mockery
of the world that we are in.
And once again the thought occurred
that everyone has had –
that life is such a senseless thing –
beyond what’s merely sad.

And some would surely disagree
and say that life’s a blessing
or claim that there’s a purpose in it –
although it seems that's missing.

And surely I should nod my head,
to not disturb their dreams –
but still I see those skeletons
that laugh at all our themes.


I saw a row of skeletons
and each was once as me.
And soon enough, I too will grin
and joined with them will be.

And some will say, “We all have souls
and those will still be there.”
I gaze upon that multitude
and find it hard to bear.

Some hope for an eternity,
a heaven in the sky.
But there’s a price for everything
and more so, for a lie.

So when I end, I hope that I
will vanish and be lost.
To still be there, although I’m gone,
is far too high a cost.

Daffodil Fields, Skagit Valley, Washington, by Alan Majchrowicz


2015 March 8th, Sun. night, late
Skyway Restaurant, Bath Avenue
(last four stanzas added the next night,
after returning home from work)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Another March

Another March
There’s snow upon the ground and yet the sky,
aglow in evening’s shades, has told me this –
it’s coming soon – that spring, that’s still a dream
that stirs within the winter’s slumbering.

And walking home this evening, I can see
the buds are turgid on the leafless branch –
and so, as winter’s darkness yields to light,
there wakes again that dormant, hopeful lust.

A woman has her monthly cycles and
the ones without a shelter yearly ones.
And now the season's turning and the sap
is rising slowly towards the sun and warmth.


How many cycles has this planet known,
how many more are left for humankind?
The snow is melting on the city’s streets,
and I have lived to see another March.

Oh sun that lights the day, oh moon and stars,
oh seasons of the year that cycle through –
you'll still be here, when I and those like me
are vanished like the snow that winter brought.

And what will other winters bring to Earth,
what other plagues that yet have music, art?
On countless planets, by the countless suns,
the seasons come – and surely then depart.
2015 March 9th, Mon.
Brooklyn, New York

Sunday, March 8, 2015


While walking in the morn, I met the mist
that still was hiding in the shadowed glen.
And though I said, “Hello!” it answered not
or in a language that I did not know.

For though I felt a breeze and just a touch
of chill that seemed to reach within my soul,
I did not linger long enough to figure out
what issued from that mist within that glen.

I fancied, as I neared the light, that there,
behind me to the right, a figure crept,
of stature small – that mist and shadows then
appeared to swallow when I turned my head.

And so I strove to hasten then my stride,
yet felt a shiver moving down my spine.
And when I stepped out in the morning light,
within a clearing, I was glad indeed.

And later, I was told, there lived within
that narrow valley, rarely touched by sun,
a being – last of those who’d lived before,
who now were gone, whilst leaving only him.
So was it fancy, or a living thing –
perhaps of human or of fairy kind?
I do not know, but still I will not go
again alone within that wooded glen.

2015 March 8th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Races

The Races 


There’s misery in many forms – and happiness is found
in many things in many ways by you and I and more.
But let me speak awhile of woe that’s come from speeding up
and of the joy that once was here, when most were moving slow.

For Mammon wants us each to work and also spend our wages
at faster rates and more and more, expending all we've earned,
and then He wants the ant disposed before it ails and ages.
So each of us should swiftly then be buried or be burned…

For both in labor and in payments, humans serve their lords,
the ones that now we bow to, who are seated on their thrones.
So most of us are racing at our work and through our lives,
for he or she who doesn't, soon, in poverty, atones…

The more we work, the more it is that profits large are gathered.
The faster that we do it, the faster profits grow.
The more that we are spending, the more the stocks that rise.
And who can dare to posit, that all of these should slow?

But see, what all that speeding up has done to humans ‘round –
the illnesses of body, mind that also grow at speed,
the madness in the zones of peace, the madder zones of war –
and ask, “Is this what humans want or what they truly need?”

And those of conscience suffer most, while those with fewer qualms
can still survive and flourish.   So our breeds are still evolving
to be of better service to our masters, as we race
upon the treadmills that, at speed, are always now revolving.


The artisans have gone their way; the workers took their places.
And then the robots came – and those, that slaved before, displaced…
The quieter joys of life and work are lost in all our races,
and so our satisfactions are, by paychecks, now replaced…

So who has time to be with children, teach them, tell them stories?
And who has time to taste their meals, to savor still their lives –
to slowly walk, to pause to see, to read of woes and glories,
to hold another in their arms and be as husbands, wives?

For humans always knew to race, when moving fast was needed –
in hunting or in fleeing, in the battles of the past.
But we also knew of slowing – and the need for it was heeded,
for there are things we cannot do, when we’re moving fast.


The work that’s fine, that’s focused, be it that of mind or hand,
the attention that is needed, when we’re learning what is new
or pausing from our schedules to attend to those in need,
were understood to be for all – and not for just a few.

There was a time when most of us were “primitive” indeed.
We then would hunt and gather – and were truly artists each.
Our lives had woes but also joys and flowed as rivulets.
We sang and danced and worked and did our children duly teach.

And no, it was no paradise, but yet we each were free
of masters who could make us work and rob us of our labor.
For we were truly humans then, in all our little clans.
The quiet joys of human lives, we then could truly savor.


No clock-alarms, no rushing then to work in soulless mills,
not even fields, by brigands owned, to whom we owed their share –
no landlords then to claim their rents, no trace of feudal ills,
no “paradise on earth” and yet – a life that we could bear.

For we had friendships then – and bonds.  We cried at deaths, departures.
We laughed aloud and smiled a lot, we joked and had our fun.
No hospitals or nursing homes – and yet we did our best
to care for those who needed care – until the setting sun.

And those, who first then tilled the land, enjoyed awhile their grain,
and so could settle down and tend to elders and the sick.
But then there came the bandits who became their masters and
who put in place their feeding chains from populations thick.


So predators can feed off prey, when prey becomes abundant.
So just as men had “tamed” the beasts and set them then to toil,
so also men were tamed in turn, so others then could feed
on all the work that peasants did upon the yielding soil.

And then the cities, then the trades, the ships and factories –
and so the trek towards the towns, to work in dreary mills,
and then the start, towards the end of all that humans had
that can’t be bought.  And so the starts of many present ills.

So having told this history, however poorly, I
would now beseech you to observe and question what you do.
For only when such attitudes are prevalent will we
return perhaps to slower lives – as meant for me and you.


For those conditioned by their times – this age of packaging
and those that came before – they rarely pause to question why.
But to survive and to “succeed”, they quickly learn to race,
and so their lives become  a blur.  They never see the lie.

And only when the lies that we are fed, from when we’re born,
are seen for what they are, will men and women start to stop
and question wars of arms and those that now are waged in “peace” –
in all the races that consume our lives, until we drop.
2015 March 7th, Sat.
Brooklyn, New York


Sunday, March 1, 2015



Moon and Branch, by Mike Crabtree


When caught within the madness we create,
we’re captives who have lost, it seems, their souls,
until a child, a dog, a breaking dawn
can reconnect us with our primal source.
And some may find this in a fallen leaf,
and others, in the rhythms deep within
or in the tides that move the days and nights,
or in the turns and seasons of their lives.
And so it is with me, whose spirit seems
to weaken from the running of the race,
but then, from drinking at the spring, revives,
so I can slowly walk awhile at peace.


I'll give, as just an instance, this – a day
that I remember from the jumbled wreck
that's been my life from working in the mills
that now have entered even in my dreams.
So after sleeping – or a semblance of it,
I woke and hurried out to work and then
I met the morning, with the chill of dawn,
and this, with coffee, roused me as I walked.
And working then throughout the stressful day,
I did by chance look out the window once.
And then, on high, I saw the clouds that passed.
They gave me breath, and so I still could be.
I kept on working, as the day went out,
and felt that I’d been torn and drained of strength.
But when I left the building where I'd worked,
I met the evening and it soothed my soul.

And after dinner, though I still was spent,
I ventured out to tryst awhile with night.
And once again, it seemed I came to life
beneath the stars that shivered in the cold.
But then, returning, when I tried to sleep,
despite a dullness and a deep fatigue,
I only slept but briefly and awoke
in terror from the roar of factories..

But when I stood awhile by a window-side
and saw the moon behind a reaching branch,
I found my solace and my silence deep
and so could slumber for a bit till dawn.


How rarely do we pause to question why
we do the things that we are told to do.
And some might say, "We do, so we can live."
But so do those, who murder by the book.
A job we do should give us nourishment
not only of the body but of soul.
But when it ceases to, or shatters us
we need a source to make our fragments whole.
And so I draw my daily sustenance
from that which gave me birth and gives me life.
For when I’m agitated, tired, depressed,
it never fails to give me strength again.
2015 March 1, Sun, 1:27 am
(additions and changes made that
afternoon & on March 6th Fri. night)
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn