Monday, March 30, 2015

Angel cards

Finger tips slide along
the glossiness
of two tiny cards
Tucked inside so many others, hiding in a 
 black velvet pouch, waiting to be seen in the light
of someone’s hopes,
Not a game of poker, not a game at all

But a guide , words that rouse the  Sabbath soul 
after weekdays heavy toll

Angels walk you home
From synagogue at night
So that you wont get hurt
By muggers on the way
By those who steal  the holiness of time
Wishing  to rob for unknown  reason or rhyme
By the light of a dinner table,
Home at last,
Two little cards,
Like sacred  tablets with one word
To show the way,  lighten up the path
Of treks through wilderness of worry , ways winding  with

With  closed eyes , 
magnifying  mystery , chance,
What word  will arise,
What answer, adventure or romance,
Not prophecies that need come true,
Words of choice,  not happenstance,
But do what  angels do
Climbing ladders,
They take your heart and lead you to what matters

“Shalom aleichem “
we sing
Our guests,  angels coming home
some magic, and some peace they bring
Then off they go to roam
Searching for  the sacred spark
In places cold and dark
For wine that warms
And spongy bread that forms
A family that loves.

Letters  bouncing in my view
The font of faith-PURPOSE,
a sign of Sabbath, a simple clue
A question beyond the surface
life’s essence  is on trial,
where can I find  my soul’s holy smile

I pause  to take the second card, 
A word to forge my fate
What will the next  word have me guard
My life’s goal indicate

Letters carved deep
penetrating, through and through
a font to savor and keep
 my heart makes a lilting  leap
I know its message to be  true

 the word its dictionary  divine
Presents itself  in mysterious fashion
 A way of life yet  to be mine.

 when feeling tired, sad and down
And searching for some solace
In city or in some small  town
Compassion is my talis

It girds me tight,
In measures always  fit
It shines on me the gentle light
Of  precious holy writ.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beyond all praise

Back from morning prayer
God  praised, again and again
looking everywhere 
to find His hint in the company of men

Again  words declaring
Magnified and Sanctified be your name
Kaddish- worshipers daring
To assure Him of His fame

honored, adored
exalted, acclaimed
toward heaven sounds soared
lofty thoughts  inadequately framed

in a flash, image biting
piercing message, an alarm
father blessing reciting
choking words at life’s harm

wooden boxes in sight
seven in number
angels now taking flight
bodies buried in slumber

children’s smiles and laughter
 now cinder and smoke
infinite pain that comes after
can God’s name one invoke?

“Above all praise”
can these words that follow
drown out dread and the daze
lifting heart, hard  and  hollow

Beyond love and fear
way out of mind’s reach
nothing far, nothing near
can life’s sorrow slightly breach

For a story book ending
we pray God would show
but life  keeps on sending

tiny coffins in a row.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Imagine the day after....

Every now and then
 words pop into my head
words of women and men
to be said after I am dead

my life rolls on before me
I halt it here and there
taking stock of my life’s journey
did I cruise or did I care

I hear them all articulate
pretty much the same
a  fairly decent friend and mate 
heeding  all the rules of the game

good father, and  a husband true,
as rabbi, teacher  grew
to be more honest , test things new
trying hard to be a little more  loving too

an effort made, with poetry,
and many words of  prose
to touch a depth of integrity
its goodness only God knows

to see life as a gift,
 lesson learned a little late
and not make  short shrift
of every open gate

will it matter what they say
I’ll hear them not I’m sure
but to imagine  being ever away
some sadness now can cure

what’s left behind 
is now my focus
so others will find
something genuine, not hocus- pocus

a passing smile
a kindness here and there
without shrewdness and guile

just doing what’s considered fair

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Patch of Snow

Like an island in a pond of green
a little patch of white thumbs its dirty 
nose and face at the forces of disappearance
by some miracle, 
the sun’s rays, the warming winds,
scraping shovels have missed their objective-
the snow stays, not pure white,
blackened by time’s onslaught
yet still glittering under a clear blue sky

awaiting the clouds.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The dead squirrel

middle of the road
run over scampering for safety 
of giant monster that 
squashes helpless things into nothingness
no longer darting as if driven by ions
racing up tree trunks 
or skipping along branches in search of an acorn,
 a darting flash-gone-
inert, snuffed out, instant death

a photograph;  a far away land,  dirt road, car-less,
a child lifeless, lying alone, distant bystanders, no wailing by his side
 terror has vanished from cherubic face
eyes closed, asleep , feeling nothing,  in the world of darkness,
like the  squirrel
a monster, unseen and sudden,
squeezed  flesh and bones into oblivion

Morning, father and daughter off to school- holding hands,
care-free  eyes, exuberant, laughing, skipping along  not to keep pace
but to keep alive the joy of being alive

The Squirrel

I saw a squirrel this morning
under shopping carts, at the A& P,
without  any warning
scurrying everywhere, seemingly carefree,

for the stray nut
or morsel of food
they do nothing but
they brighten one’s mood

with their speed so jerky
impossible to caress
their movements so quirky
telephone wire homes’ address

not long before,
with a friend at prayer,
not God to implore
but together to share

doubts and dismay
about life and its use
early feelings falling prey
to our minds on the loose

Left with a sigh
surrender to living
so frightened to die
we fall back to giggling

like kids in a classroom
carefree, immortal
a respite from doom
from life's final portal.

I wonder today,
so soon to Yom Kippur
is there something to say
that can rid me of the bitter

truth, clutching and rolling,
like the darting squirrel
we whirl and twirl
death's ringing bell tolling,

another year of closer to 
who shall live? who shall die?
where to find the clue
whether low or high?

in a parking lot
or up a tree
like a squirrel not yet caught

skittish  and free.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Wishful Thinking

“Look toward heaven and count the stars” (Genesis)

Twinkle twinkle little star-
Abraham's wish weighs his will into the dust of the earth,
a burden of expectations, promises and pledges
awaiting four millenia of worry
where wishes squeeze their presence into
crevices of consecrated prayer,
stars seem so far away, untouchable,
the dust is home-from dust you come and to dust you return
but the stars merely twinkle in cold, callous reaches of circling constellations

“I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth”(Genesis)
That's more like it! That rings true-
and so we worry on a particle of dust,
knowing that multitudes -beyond counting or measurement,
will enfold our  being buried below
and  the offspring of our lives-dreams, thoughts,  laughter and loves,
will  float through the void,
stardust- that's all that  remains,
“a haunting melody of love's refrain.” (Hoagy Carmichael)

Me and Abraham -In honor of my 75th birthday ( Nov.1,1939)

“Abram was seventy five years old when he left Haran”(Gen.12:4)

Sixty two years ago, tomorrow,
the Sabbath of Going Forth
 I wander from the warm comfort of nouveau Outremont along  cold yet sunshine drenched  sidewalks  
to winding  staircases of poor Pine Avenue,
arriving finally at a holy place , an altar from which I ascend into Jewish adulthood-
floors creak beneath my feet as I make my nervous way up the Bimah to bless,
bent backs and creaking bones , my choir of hallowed response
-And Abraham was ninety nine years old when he circumcised the flesh of his skin-
youthful chant filling wooden spaces echoing with sighs of yore,
crescendoing in a hail of holy sweets, candies consecrated to sweetening  the sourness of years yet to come,  released with shouts  of praise and hope  from the balcony of beckoning and tear- drenched prayers
Today I am a man-not an ordinary man but Abrahamic-one going forth
stepping into life with only a promise-”and you shall be a blessing.”

Five and seventy years , so many wanderings, alters built and broken,
tests passed and failed, so many questions, so few answers-pleas and arguments, stunned silences , celebrations of success-
Seventy five years later, still stuck in Haran,
A place of haron-of anger, of a closed heart hardened by disappointment 
and broken promises-
it is time to go forth again-from hardness to an open heart, from the altar of anger 
to the shrine of gentle softness-
will I reach ninety nine , a time of circumcision, of peeling away the foreskin of hurt and rage?
Perhaps not-I hear the ancient blessed bidding-Get you forth from Haran, - now, at this crossroads, between Haran and Canaan, the place of surrender,  my seventy fifth year of life - go forth to circumcise the scars of your soul, removing bloody bandages of broken dreams
so that the heart of flesh, bruised  but  able to embrace the blessings of one more day.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

My 75th birthday

Three quarters of a century
Seven and one half decades
Nine hundred months
Thirty nine hundred weeks
Twenty seven thousand,three hundred and seventy five days-
six hundred and thirty seven thousand hours
thirty eight  million two hundred and twenty two thousand  minutes
two billion two hundred and ninety three million and two hundred thousand-seconds

If   physicist I would measure  nanos
If  physician, heartbeats,
If philosopher,  infinity
but merely a child of the universe
my only gradient is gratitude

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ode to the “I” phone

They walk down the street,
Heads lowered to the ground,
As if not a soul is 
Anywhere around

Cars may pass, 
people walking by,
On concrete or on grass,
world has shrunk -what remains is the “I”.

 No, the world 's an oyster,
 press a button and see,
a private space-my cloister,
Whatever I want I can be.

I can text, talk and skype,
any place any hour ,
whether to praise or to gripe,
its within everyone's power

no longer apart,
or terribly bored,
now instantly smart
entertained as a lord.

A mirror to look at 
and  indulgently preen,
the world’s again  flat,
its all on a screen.

Ere the I phone,
not  long ago
Feeling so alone
Without a place to go

But now, beyond space and time,
a gentle tap,
on the lap,
no need Mt. Everest to climb

The world at finger's tip
Like God feel divine
From app to app we flip,
our shrine , a click on line.

Life  is now a great joy,
so eat , drink and be merry,
As long as your toy
is a Noika or Blackberry.