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POETIC FLIGHTS 2

Page 23

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Poems about love and hope are listed on the index of poems

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poems of struggle and humanity
Displaced remnant
Of the Third Reich
Never had much zest
For vengeance, hate
Or killing,
Even though popular opinion
At the time
Had nourished such--
His political views elusive;
He mocked the goose step,
The high-handed salute,
Dug his heels in when told
What to do
Or not
To do, and yet
A staunch disciple of
Subservience
To the rule of law;

The necessities of rampant
Inflation, he often orated,
Were fertile ground
For a Hitler
To disenchanted youth;
He defensively confessed,
The so-called Fuehrer was
A madman, a clown--
And the vermin Eichmann
An aberration
A hundred times worse;
Emotionally suspended
Somewhere between apology
And derision,
He sneered at ideology,
condemned all corruption
Of power,
Yet clung to
A kernel of Semitic doubt;

He had no tolerance
For fantasy and superstition;
One day in the future,
He hoped,
Science would lift humanity
Above itself;
His faith firmly anchored in
The Newtonian world,
He believed in things he
Could touch and smell,
Until he lay dying,
Poison eating his bones,
When he began wondering
Out loud about
The possibility of God;

His father was a banker--
Beyond this, his upbringing
Obscure;
Whether he was happy, or
At least not discontent,
One could never be sure;
In the news he closely followed
The life of a former compatriot,
Wernher von Braun,
Who unlike himself,
Rocketed skyward
On the American Dream;

Untrusting of doctors,
He diagnosed and medicated
Himself,
And at regular intervals
With a pointed tool,
burrowed into his own ears--
Perhaps to deaden the noise
Of all that was wrong;

Brittle to criticism, yet
Hard as carbon steel,
He stood fearsome and aloof,
Uncompromising,
His vision stark,
His edicts
Final--
And yet in quiet moments,
He could melt like cream;

His diction professorial,
His tone peremptory,
He would unspool long speeches
On the theories of Darwin
And the religion of
Rational thought;
He preached on the dangers
Of radiation,
The idiocy of the hydrogen
Bomb,
He dismantled the mechanics
Of butterflies and
Electronic clocks;

He railed against
The obscenities of
Rising taxes and
A worthless Canadian
Dollar,
The thick-headedness of
Diefenbaker,
The arrogance of Trudeau;
He trusted Kennedy
To a point,
But democracy, he thought,
Was badly flawed;
Though suspicious of
Khrushchev and his KGB,
He was attracted to
The concept
Of slicing and dicing
Up wealth;
Too many millionaires
He often would fret;

He bitterly bemoaned
The rapid disintegration
Of traditional values;
He bolstered his view
By spotlighting
The lewd
antics of women who
Shamelessly pranced
In public
Without bras;
With salacious vigor
He often keenly observed:
Their skirts barely covered
Their asses.

His lectern was makeshift:
A doorjamb in any room
Would nicely do;
He always strategically stationed
Himself, it seemed,
To block my egress;
Other heads with ears
In the family loop
Were always coincidentally
Preoccupied with
More urgent affairs--
I was his victim,
His recording device,
His audience of one;

From his lips poured
An inexhaustible torrent
Of ideas,
Most of which I'd heard
Before,
Tumbling down,
Rivaling Niagara Falls;

In the service of guilt,
Or out of deference or fear,
I would half listen,
Fantasizing unassailable
Rebuttals,
Planning brilliant escapes,
Commiserating with the dehydrated
Crumb of fly
Unburied, undignified, unsouled
At my feet,
While I squirmed in my seat,
And was swept into oblivion
By a riptide of words;

In that Sartrean hell
I would often ponder this thought:
What was it, he was grasping for,
What from me, did he really want?

He could theorize
And expostulate
With razor precision,
And yet be
Amazingly oblivious to
How he was received
By that chromosomal offshoot
Of himself
Still blinking
In the channel of his gaze,
Even though
The shrunken soul
Within
Was long since lost;

He could talk and talk
And talk--

And yet, in all those
Years of one-sided debate
never a single
Syllable,
No, not one tiny word
Dropped from his lips,
On the physics of love,
The geometric shape
Of loneliness,
The chemical makeup of
Pain and loss,
The exponential curve
That divided our hearts--
These courses I wish
My father had taught;

And so I ask myself, now that the river has dried up
And disappeared,
What is served in excavating this old bed of weeds,
And dust and rock?

Only in the form of a question, alas,
Can I find a way to respond:

Would I have fallen in love
With words,
Tinkered
With rhythm,
Obsessed with sound,
If an arch
Of understanding
Had been erected to

Span

The unspoken gap?

poems of humanity
High above it once cradled
its denizens,
lusciously suspended
between earth and sky--
now the flaming macaws
are gone--
no bromeliads, no orchids
no flying frogs--
this time-nursed haven
betrayed
by life's own trusted arms.

And over here once stood
our great monoliths
when we took in the breath
of sun, of tree, of rock--
we've progressed beyond
all that--
ancient kinships broken--
the hand forgotten
that long ago coaxed us
out of the sweet burping
muck.

We've roped off the moon,
the distant drowning stars,
rearranged the oceans--
scrubbed our world until
it bleeds,
spirit hard and blackened,
endless muffled screams--
the worm silently gorging
on our damaged dreams.

Here on this stifling crust
only thistle, barren brush--
and yet,
when all is said and done,
the ironweed will blossom,
the strangler fig will rise,
Life will overthrow itself.

poems of struggle
Look back a few million years
To swampland, savannah fed
with starlight, pure, unnamed,
night moon vacant of dreams,
When death was still unborn,
Good and evil a single sound,
Car, airplane, telephone, TV
Still incubating deep inside rock,
Roots undivided, stream of air
Woven with breath of ocean,
Before we split from the stem--

Gaze forth a few million years
To tundra and tropics stroked
By starlight still, night moon
Emptied of all images of love,
Our plastics, poisons retaken,
Wholely embraced, reformed,
The pyramids dissolved, gone,
Our magnificence, our cruelty
Sponged by microbe and slug,
Our forwardness fossilized,
Neither part or orphan of stalk--

Our imagination like a god
Creating what does not exist,
Dreaming of things beyond
The dark,
Knows how shallow the stream
We've crossed,
How great the distance between
Our stumblings and the stars.

Unbalanced by the cold, hard
Hands of time
On this wild and splendid arc,
Now falling forward
Now behind,
As we toy with the rhythms,
Sculpt a crumb
Of eternity out of a world
Of flux
Under some slow dying sun—
We alone,
Yes, we alone
Have claim to this apology:
Seeing more than we can see—
Not knowing why we exist
At all.


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