Sunday, June 25, 2017


You can take me to the water,
but you cannot make me drink.
You can puzzle me with questions,
but you cannot make me think.

When I’m little, I may listen
and I even might obey.
But when I’ve grown in seasons,
I will go my chosen way.

You can give me all your reasons,
you can say what’s right and wrong.
And I’ll listen to your speeches,
but I still will hum my song.

That’s the way of all the beings
who are free to choose and err.
I can learn from all my trials,
if you’ll let me do that, sir.

If you force me to obedience,
to saying you are right,
you will lose, what you have conquered
by insistence or by might.
For a person, robbed of freedom,
is a person robbed of joy.
I will sulk and be resentful
of the means that you employ.
So tell me what you’re thinking
and then show me the respect
of making my decisions.
That is all that I expect.
There is room for compromises,
for yielding and retaining.
If you’re rigid in your thinking,
you will see me fit for training.
But I also am a person,
with my likes and my concerns.
So I offer you my friendship,
if you’ll let me have my turns.

There are things that I can tell you.
There are things I’d rather not.
If you show that you are open,
you might even learn a lot.
2017 June 25th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York

Friday, June 23, 2017

Baba (Dear Father)

Baba (Dear Father)

The summer solstice came and went—and now
the date approaches when you left this life
and so returned to nothingness again.

So mother too had left, a month before—
like you, before the school-year came to end
and set me free, for August and July—
too late, that year, for her—and then for you.

And so your daughter too had gone—before
you both—and left us all disconsolate.


Now school is ending—and there’s time to pause,
returning home—to sit within a park,
the playground of a school, bereft of trees—
with tar and concrete, where there should be grass.

So here I sit and bask in summer’s sun—
or swelter, as those summers come to mind,
beneath those skies that arced in brilliance,
beneath that sun that burned our darkened skins—
and in that land where you and I were born.


How close and distant were the father, son—
how rare and dear the tears that you and I
had wept, across the years and continents.

By culture, I was bred for reverence—
and more for elders than for all the gods.

But here I sit and weep, in quietude,
with little children’s voices wafting by,
remembering you, who once was little too—
and flew your kite, beneath that tropic sun.

How many children cry for parents lost,
how many parents for their children gone—
how many for a sibling or a friend,
or elder, younger—who is now no more…

So little time for joy—or even grief,
amidst the hustle of the city’s streets,
amidst the passage of a harried life…

How precious then, this time at summer’s start—
to pause and find the time to think of you.

2017 June 22, Thursday, 4:31 pm
playground, Public School 186
between 76th and 77th Streets, off 16th Avenue
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Time is Money?

Time is Money?

Time is more than money, friends,
although you won’t believe us.
We live where time and money are
equated.  It’s atrocious.

Time was there, when money wasn’t.
Time will be, when money isn’t.
Haughty lord or humble peasant—
time is what made living pleasant.

Time is what we lost, as we
exchanged it for the coins that clink.
We’ve lost the time for elders, kids,
for leisure—and to sit and think.

We once had time, in part or plenty—
time for joy and time for grief.
But now we’re robbed of all. I’m asking,
“Who, of time, has been the thief?”

Men are harried and distracted.
Women’s lots are even worse.
Children cannot pay attention.
Yet I sit and type my verse.

When we focus on the present,
past and future fall away.
Time is there, and yet it isn’t,
be it night or be it day.

Should we hurry sex or eating?
Can we speed up love and care?
When the mantra is “efficient”,
who, to pause and see, can dare?

All of art and much of science,
all of nurture, learning, teaching,
all of wisdom—these are timeless,
born from disregard of clocks.

Surely time, like space, has function.
But time and space will still be there,
when you and I are vanished, mortals!
Time and space, we all could share.

But time, like other things, is now
a source of profit.  It’s a factor
that’s essential.  Watch your timing!
Otherwise, you’re not an actor.

See the worker, who must watch
the ticking clock—because the boss
is watching, there are deadlines and
to fuss—delay—entails a loss.

See the businessman, who strives
to squeeze, from out of time, his cash.
No time remains to pause, reflect
on things that don’t affect his stash.

See the parent, with her bills.
working hard, to feed her kids—
and so much more.  No time for her
to stop—or she’ll be on the skids.

In places, it’s the poor who race.
The middle class can take it slow.
In other places, burghers run—
or they’ll be middle class no more.

Run, run, run!  Run, run, run!
Run, run, run—and don’t ask why.
Run, run, run!  And run some more!
Run, run, run—till you drop and die.

No use for you, if you don’t produce
and don’t consume and pay your taxes—
unless you’re Donald Trump.  He hires,
and when your time is up, he axes.

“You’re fired!”  Now, you might survive
or not.  It seems it matters little.
“Go find a job, you useless bum!
Or you’re the wood we’ll have to whittle.”

Jobs and business, bosses, profits,
bills to pay and loans and rent—
these are now our lords and masters.
With amusements, we’re content.

Time is money.  Money's all.
Who has time to pause and question,
"Why this racing?  Who is gaining?
Where's the truth and where's the fiction?"

2017 June 18th, Sun.
Brooklyn, New York 
Related:  Hop  (a shorter poem, for reading out aloud)  


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dawn and Dusk-III

Dawn and Dusk-III

At dawn, we’re born; at dusk, we die.
And this repeats—we know not why.

As night bears day, so day bears night.
The darkness yields in time to light,
And light in turn gives way to dark,
As dawn and dusk, these turnings mark.

And see—the hues that arc on high,
As birth and death ignite the sky.

How sad, the dusk!  How hopeful, dawn!
It spins—this planet that we're on.
It spins—and yet it seems to pause,
As dawn and dusk suspend its laws.

It’s morning, then it’s noon and then
It’s afternoon and eve again...

So seasons come and seasons go—
In age, with speed; in childhood, slow.

And so it is with living things.
Of life and death, the poet sings.
And each of these, she wonders on,
When gazing up, at dusk and dawn.

The winter brings its cold and snow—
And yields to spring, when flowers blow.

How long, it seems, in warmer lands,
The summer lasts!  One understands,
With age, that all is passing, so
One bears the pain and pleasure more.

Our autumns come, with scents of musk.
We rose with dawn; we ebb with dusk.
2017 June 13th, Tue (first four stanzas)
June 14th, Wed (last six stanzas)

Brooklyn, New York
Two related poems, from 2006:

More related poems, from 2014 and 2015: