Len Eskowitz has been teaching Literature and Composition at Roxbury Community College in Boston as Professor of English, adjunct, though he also confesses to having held an artist’s long series of dumb jobs that have drained his time as much as they’ve helped him continue. He began writing poetry as a student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in the 1970's, when he was associated with the Small World School of Poetry (an early version of the Hexagon Foundation).  He has been creative in a wide variety of fields, not only poetry, but creative and critical prose, as well as in the visual arts, where he has produced pastels, water colors, acrylics, even photography. One academic observer of his first exhibition compared his pastels to those of Milton Avery. Nonetheless, these past several years he has focused on his poetry and has published in Neo-Victorian/Cochlea, Liberal Arts, Worcester Review, New Dimensions, and Chiaroscura, has won a number of small prizes at the Worcester Poetry Association, judges Judith Steinbergh and Christopher Gilbert. He has completed and is circulating his first collection Weather-Dial, with Steamed Yankee Dinner and Dream-Work soon to follow.



Still Life: The Herring School's In        Late, Far from Home, Lonely        Sources       

Queen's Time (Song)          Crystal        On the Evangeline        Weather-Dial       

The Great Wall of China        A New England Home        The Lecture        Dreamwork       

Crossing Borders         The Love Seat        Haunted House        A Crossroads Story         Confirmation        Postcard from a Volcano        Night        Animal Spirits         Steamed Yankee Dinner

The Comets         Escape         Moakley's Crane        The Rabbi and the Herring

The Renunciation        Cetacean


Poland, Hanukkah





. . . Can he who slays the elephant

for his ivory be said to have "seen

the elephant"? These are petty and

accidental uses, just as if a stranger

race were to kill us and make buttons

and flageolets of our bones.

                                -- H. D. Thoreau

The belt brought

row upon row in from

the tanker and in from the night.

Herring assembled almost like

children in rows going to school.

Silver scaled, glistening under

fluorescents, and so so soft. One

lost one’s fastidiousness and

longed to touch each beautiful bit

of still life, each subtle scale,

and forgetful of fish that flowed

untouched past one’s insensate filleting

machine, pick a single one up.

glassey-eyed and plump in palm,

trace it from nose to fin to tale,

almost to caress. Each separate fish,

a silver stroke in the portrait, each

so remarkably like the other, the

belt black and sides dull metallic

gray, the crew in denim and plaids

and spattered whites, thin

cloth jackets and pants, and ever

so certainly individually shucked into

brown and black plastic gloves and boots,

as herring after herring ,

eyes open in unblinking wonder at

hideous efficiencies that men and

machine might bend themselves to, each

individually finding its shining belling

turned up and spit and shucked, guts and blood

and blood and backbone and all, then in a snap

shipped to America’s dinner table, C.O.D.

The night droned by and

the belt seemed to whisper and sing to

me as it rolled on under my eyes

into the dark, rolled through coffee-break,

brown-bag supper and down-time cat-naps

as others iced the fish and calibrated

machines or opened new tank-batch

for us to work on into the night without stop

that’d let fish pile and bellies break

or loads wilt with incoming fresh catch and

morning sun. Mainers around me smiles and said,

You’ll see flounder and sardine-mackerel,

dog-fish and ground-fish, blue and

butterfly-fish, and tonight you’ll get so tired

you’ll work now and ever after

as in a dream. And I saw them scrambling smiling

and with dream-like untiring mechanical speed,

old fisherwomen and bearded men and young

girls home from school alike (we don’t work

the winter, so all ‘re out for an occasional

first boat in spring), scramble to ensure

each individual herring is directed off the belt

and into the rollers and cutting machines to be packed,

unbroken but by design. Merciless mercy, to try

to let not a single fish elude nimble reaching

hands and be broken, ever-so-neatly snapped

into two, should the belt pile up. Broken

backs and bodies, needless wreckage, wet

bodies shoveled en masse from belt and pavement

underfoot into barrel; for pet-food or fertilizer,

they said. Life-juices, shreds and water, all

caught and (to disbelief and humor and unaccepting

admiration) bottled, labeled and sold: broth, cocktail,

clammato, or such. Waste not, want not, my partner

said knowingly. Freedom from waste, perhaps,

but even so, does that mean no want? No waste

of another kind? And can there be want

in want of want? I wanted to ask, but knew

that my friend would not hear.

Transfixed so with wonder in the roar and failing

light in these earth-works, earth’s bowels, that

so little such attends such horrible beauty,

the precision, the charitable care only that each

shred be properly caught and weighed, numbered and valued,

I suddenly could see a silent orchestrated school

of fish hovering before me, a silver miracle,

so many pilots faithfully pointed in one direction,

homing somehow for somewhere, through the gray blue green

transparent sea. And if pilots and school so

obviously orchestrated, what the plan? And why to here?

And if classroom and lesson, what point to such paradox?

If only someone could tell! If once here,

fish might miraculously spring to life, to walk on tail

and talk, what might they say of our commercial wonders?

And of their own silent purpose? Would they tell of life

seen outside of our picture-frame, beyond this one small room?

Or lecture at all that we do not see before us?

That precision and charitable beauty might come to mere shreds

and stacked cardboard boxes. My friend would speak

of blessings of plenty, question not inequality and

sacrifice called to mind.. Should we hold ourselves so

separate from simpler life? If preordained, all for the good?

Was I too on a conveyor, where might it lead?

Why these pictures, rolled before me?

My friend, I knew, would say no more talk talk

alone ’s waste, as the belt and the whispering night

rolled over me and I could not talk to talk.








The man rides along in the bus;

The bus rides along with him;

And the road is a great snake

Growing from darkness into darkness.

All swirls about, refracting from

Then into now. Somehow he should be able to

Choose and stand. Somehow he should

Dominate that world...

But the thoughts are blown off in the wind

He sees himself in the window

Babes are gobbled

Cabbages rule in the stead of kings

Trees bend in a weeping procession

Over the moving road and the moving bus

The house, the storied commitment, the fairy princess

There right; here wrong and right and

The road snakes from the past into the dark.

Cabbages are fighting the kings.








Where is compassion merely practiced?

Where is it shared?

Might the one come before the other?

And however might the two ‘come one?

-- Spark and flame?

Should they?

Can they?

Would you they?

You ask that the rainbow be parted, I believe.

I would make myself part of the necromancy, the

glory, the color of day.

Isn’t the bar of the compass










Transfixment of

rainbow light leaves no child forsaken

though inebriation of elixir

may bar the Queen now

‘fore King’s bow.

Bouquet of spring,

rainbow rosemary elixir, bow and bar,

will lead hare and hind to

soft submission

fixed amidst the humming light.








Ironies attend

The transfigured soul,

Necessary shadows of Being:

Glinting facets of crystal,

Fasceting being that nil of all,

That All in all.









Moment amidst the dark

passage, river in an ocean;

time, waves recapitulating each other,

one and another.

Once we said only our mistakes

could come back to haunt us --

returning like flies to pester.

Evil does; momentary soul sickness

in transit. Scandals in the nations

house; fires in Miami, Marxists fighting,

marching Nazis and Klansmen

in Connecticut. Where, how

could there be forgiveness?

We answer, those blessed with grace

answer. Graceful answers,

each in turn finding the old way, old paths,

unique seconds unraveling surprise

eternally known.

Hesitant voicing of a given range,

certain act, seer sight-

diadem like that caught

between falcon and falconer –

finding the river in the ocean.

And where to? Prow amidst the waves;

Ever leaning starboard.

Ship’s horn sounding the warning of further fog,

momentary blindness.

We continue, voicing the uncertainty,

the certainty, the surprise.








                             neither fear nor courage

                             saves us…

                                                – T. S. Eliot


A woman sits amidst the hush

lounging, book in hand, light within,

darkness dancing before and by and without.

Part of the pattern, Grecian

tapestry of today and tomorrow and…

mindful of men falling midst ambition, storms

swallowing towns, lovers’ quarrels, terrorist fears, endlessly

burning bushes. Mind made like a modern meteorologist’s chart;

still here, she ponders, cold calculations of snow in chalk there.

Lady Picasso a’dream, space’s purpleslashes somehow mingling

with her own feminine curves: certain charted lines all set, now

Nature holds her holy breath, now it’s ten, now it’s twelve, now it’s two, and

All’s still. And men and women and children hurry with incredible

slowness to tape window, lock shutter, clear porch, provide

flashlight and candle, fuel oil and gas and well-stocked pantry,

as all appears as in a seer’s omniscient ball, clear, shivering

gently in anticipation of onslaught of fate foreseen, hope forlorn,

hope foregone, meteorologist’s chart like a poetic metaphor yet

so sharp this picture, still crystal of Today & Tomorrow,

Quiet & Chaos. All form that Cold Pastoral, that abstract whole,

symphony of unheard melody, she thinks; never ending inner pattern,

inner engulfing the outer edges of whatever it is

we are and may yet become. Peace to him within whose imagination

can comprehend the pattern without. But the hesitation here,

before dawn, eternally competing, completing, never complete.

Uneasy ease of self’s forms; fantasmic future, caught here,

caught now….

Weatherchart telling of men falling,

limbs chilling, words crossing words.

Imperturbable figure of mind,

a woman sits amidst the hush, book in hand,

the swirling dark pirouettes about.








We have tossed our hat

over the wall; now let us

follow after it.


Oh, you Lover of Walls,

Waller, student of minor poetry,

what would you wall in, wall out?

Capper, what would you cap, and why?

Boxer, a six round go, a play ’d bring more joy

than passing success in boxing me.

Librarian, could you lock away all books?

Scholar, critical, condemn us to decades’ diet

of unrelenting bibliography? for a fee?


China built its Great Wall, you say?

A cakewalk, you see, symbol of futility,

for the hordes, Chinese and Mongol, raged, rage

season-long on both sides in fray.

Hebrews’ Wailing Wall? -- symbol for the unwalled,

unwallable, the wall-less in each of us.

The Great Berlin Wall, you say,

got men on both sides a’ fearing and a’ trembling?

But it made "Ich bin ein Berliner"

world’s Rosetta Stone, common man’s touchstone.

The Maginot Line? A scratch on a map,

no margin, crossed, erased in but a day.

England’s Channel but a dirty ditch crossed in a hop,

the Atlantic cause for a brief pleasure cruise.


Oh, you Lovers of Walls, governors,

presidents, prime ministers,

would you give decree, stamp STOP!

across our map, FREEZE! for Massachusetts

and New Hampshire, FLOURISH! for Phoenix

and Philadelphia? Shall these long golden rows

of olive grove stay as in some painter’s picture,

forever in WAIT! unnaturally young? Those

reach upward toward the sun, root, ripen, deepen,

fall, spread in ever richer abundance?


The great poets and their students knew.

Knew that government and art could only be as great

as common earth. Chaucer knew,

packed whole earth’s pilgrimage in one mere poem.

Shakespeare knew and would his night-black ink

be eternal morning-bright.

Donne, too, knew, for verse picked a flowering

mandrake root, caught a falling star,

would cram whole sky into four quarters,

and whole quarters into one mighty rhyme.


Blake knew and placed eternity in one mere grain of sand

and for all time.

Dickinson knew and slyly stole a sun -- or two! --

wild nights, day’s cedar walls, and gambreled sky

for diadem.

Yeats knew and caught the dance of our days

in his lusty song, and

Auden, too, in praising Yeats, all our days to unprison,

all to renew,

rolled Mouth of All Days

into a speaking



Waller, student of minor poetry,

could you wall us in? wall us out? On all

sides of all walls

earth ‘s a’ flower, cherry trees in bloom,

the winds are full, and sing.

Guys and girls in flocks drop plum-ripe

on splendid grass,

spirits a ’rising in a rush, a bubbling fountain

of creativity

and bloom tall palm-like

in milk and nut-sweet meat.

Raise a noise, a joyous shout and

hullabaloo, aaah, only for you,

you minor students of poetry.

For grasses, trees, scudding clouds,

couples walking coyly hand in hand,

milk-fresh faces, smiling faces, gleaming strawberry

hair fading into the dusk

in silent home-window a’ light, wall, roof top in shadow,

all under a rip’ning sun,

all a thousand tongues bespeaking common communion

with Keats and Shelly, Shakespeare and Donne.


Waller, what would you wall in, wall out?

Capper, cap? How could you even have dreamed?

even have begun?

Earth’s a’ flowering, cherry trees a’ bloom,

the winds are full, and sing.







                         -- for James F. Beard


It was a house,

but not a house,

located in a city really

not quite a city,

in a hollow between two hills,

a shadowy valley on a river

we called the Mystic.

(Not much of a place, really;

hardly significant space.)

And the house we meant

to name Mystic Harbor,

though the river was not

really named the Mystic.

Or much of a river, where we were.

The house was a rambling

old New England colonial

dating back to the early 19th century,

to the 1820’s at least, 2nd oldest here,

though it was really older and oldest.

>From the outside it looked

so small, dark cedar shingled and low,

its shoulders hunched in the wind,

chimneys weathered, stubby, almost bowed,

a one floor addition to the left

that would contain the family room, a ragged coattail,

the roof sagging slightly with earned fatigue

of too many years of honest service.

>From the outside, it looked so small, matchbox small,

hugging its curve of road so as not to be swept over the sharp

drop down the bank and into the rushing waters just below,

domicile precariously perched, dwarfed by fir-studded hills.

Peer into the shuttered panes to no avail!

Step into our front door, then, careful of

the three large steps leading immediately down

and the space opens immediately over you: a cathedral

ceiling stretching up under eve and pitch of roof.

Along the far wall, behind an island, the galley,

and above framed in a series of portals, rushing blue waters.

Suddenly you’re at the end of your tether, cast off, at seas as the earth’s at sea,

at sea with surprise at space infinitely larger within than without.

To the right, another deck with kitchen table and chair on it

and behind, a black cast-iron, wood-burning stove vented in an old fireplace

and throwing vital warmth that will linger, when all fires are gone.

Here you may gaze as the sparkling blue mystic stream glows between its banks,

skim its beauty as morningfresh cream, as old-time Yankees used to skim ice from ponds,

taken for granted here, perhaps, but an emperor’s treasure in India. Here is roof, table,

bed, hearth & heartiness to sustain one through roaring New England winter

or a writer’s blizzard of rejections! Rest to still hurtling days, blur of rising

and setting suns, moons. At far left above all this, overlooking all,

a loft climbed upto by vertical ladder like Father Mapple to his Quebec

or a hand into the rigging, though you found only small writing table, Venetian

green-glass lamp, cane chair, a broken-in coach and built-in bookcases,

pulpit enough, father, for our purposes. At galley level again,

past kitchen and wood stove, a fireplaced sitting room

looking out over a two-level deck that stepped down into the rear yard.

Beyond that, a small low-ceilinged white-walled fireplaced library.

Up the narrow white stairwell, white fireplaced bedrooms left and right

on a generously thick-slabbed colonial floorbed. Here

would go the brass bed, the motley quilt, the throw rug.

Here’s a telescope you’d shared with your ten year old, both of you

staring at brilliant stars in night skies above. Here a sextant from

days of yore, a chronometer, a clipper ship in a bottle.

>From every window, the winding river; water, water, all around, beauty within and without.

Downstairs through the sitting room, onto the deck and beneath, untamed half-acre.

Here you would still have room enough for gazebo and wild rose and cornucopia,

bee hive and lilac and most sensual of honeysuckle.

With the foundation above ground on riverside, open boarded-up window for light,

and door. Here’s wine cellar, here’s playroom.

By the foundation, under deck, a greenhouse, and a few steps further out

a spiraling blue spruce climbing to the stars, perhaps even

a few branches of Concord Grape to match the vineyards

worked in your library. This, the house we surveyed!

These our dreams.

We never rented it, never lived there.

Never bought it, sufficient monies were lacking, and, anyway,

all this wasn’t anything that could be owned.

We never owned it, or lived there.

We have never left.








                             for Walter Rideout


He told the story with a smile, though it never

sounded to the department like anything to laugh at.

He said that it was like a waking dream. Suddenly, he realized

he was in front of an audience. With a start, he realized

it was Yankee Stadium and not the 2000 World Series, Yankees

against the Mets, but there was an audience in the darkened stands

waiting, and a podium before him, and he was supposed to lecture!

About what, he had no idea, not the faintest memory, but as a cold sweat

broke out over him, he realized he was holding papers, his speech.

No problem, he would just read. No, no, it was only this week’s TIME

magazine. A prop? He didn’t remember, no matter. Suddenly, he felt

as if he were standing there in his birthday suit, and maybe he was

wearing "the King’s new clothes," it was all, all the same!

Squirming, a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach,

he wished it were late, late, at night, and he was twisting and turning,

caught in the throes of the horrible nightmare of our daily all-too-real existence.








He had this dream again that he was out in the back yard, digging, digging,

digging, why digging clandestinely, without light or sound,

why digging at all he had absolutely no idea. Why repeated,

if not nightly, or at least a handful of times a year, he couldn’t say.

The morning after, however, the real family nightmare began.

He remembered it clearly, the family going out to visit Grandma,

his dearest, most favorite relative. He had work for his graduate classes,

couldn’t go along, and a week later she had passed, left this earth forever.

Heartbroken, he went to the funeral service, followed the casket to the cemetery,

watched wordlessly as it was lowered into that pit in the ground

and heard the smooth, quick sound of spades biting the earth, and the thud

of earth falling on the casket. He remembered thinking, Grandma,

why couldn’t you have waited for me, let your favorite redhead grandson say goodbye?

As he wiped away a tear. But she had passed without word, left this earth forever.

That evening as he tossed in his sleep, he was digging, digging, digging,

stealthily in the dark, feeling just like a thief in the night, a graverobber.

He had been here so many times before, he realized, digging, digging, digging.

Suddenly he realized he was digging for a long white casket, digging

it up, picturing himself struggling under its weight, dragging it to his wagon

and driving off, so upset he saw little about him in the dark streets, remembered less,

nothing more than digging, digging in his backyard, feeling like a thief

in the night, a graverobber, digging a pit large enough for a casket.

Remembered thinking, "I’m taking you home, Grandmother.

You’ll be safe; you’ll never leave again. No thief will ever rob you

from us again, not even Death." He would remember little of this afterwards,

though nights he would forever wake remembering that he had been digging,

clandestinely digging, digging, never knowing why, but always digging in the dark






Crossing Borders


                                          For Elena

                                          who lived and told it first


In your self-portrait,

a princess, a Russian ballerina,

laughingly, "a gazelle in dull pink shoes"

twirling in "a theatre’s dark coulisse,"

dreaming of being one twirling pink gown

amidst "spring’s floccules," explosion of cherry blossoms,

rehearsing before the accidental audience

to a magical music, notes from Don Quixote,

dazed and amazed at the finale’s unexpected applause.

You who enchanted onlookers

and as a child would have cast healing spells

and doctored the sick of the world,

tell this story, this dream of life before

you crossed the border

to this freer world.

Nightly you dream of descending

into underground catacombs,

Beatrice entering into a dark wood

to meet your friend, your lover.

You see yourself talking incessantly,

frantically, your lips moving

almost too fast.

He stands before you, dark,

an impassive shadow,

his lips motionless,

sealed like doom,

his eyes wet with a tear

of love, a tear of pain,

his finger silently tracing the line

of his lips,

as if to say, don’t speak,

we may cross this gulf and speak. No more.

I understand and love, but my lips

are never to open,

only to gaze amidst the silence

that drowns,

the silence that muffles

all mankind.

For three years nights,



periodically, you meet

as if to doctor each other.

Then you blink.

He is gone,

and again you wake,

again covered with sweat.

Until you are able go back to visit,

to travel to meet his family

in Kiev, city of beauty,

and finally you know.

You hear, startled,

that he has left,

three years ago,

crossed that border,

passed forever

into the silent night.








As I told everyone at the time,

Furniture Warehouse & Distributors, too

who patiently listened without comment,

it was a case worthy of People’s Court:

The Case of the Defective Love Seat.

I bought it fully a year before,

paid for it in bimonthly installments,

a few dollars, whatever I could afford,

terms so liberal!

At long last it came into our empty new house,

part of three pieces, sofa, recliner, love seat.

It sparkled, and an empty room became home.

Its browns, blues, and natural hues meshed with all, even

with Flamingo Island, the picture on the wall.

We got the feel of the set gradually,

as people grown into things, a new car, good shoes, etc.

My son soon sprouted out of the couch before the TV,

the wife at last found her place on the Love Seat,

though it was far too short and her stockinged feet

forever stuck far out over the end, a point for comedy.

Perhaps because we first used recliner and sofa alone,

no more problems appeared (apart form the question of length)

until one day a tear opened on the love seat arm

and despite makeshift repair with needle and thread,

spread and spread and spread, threads entirely unraveling.

I was aghast at first, newness fled, and

affection was dashed. How could it be?

Then I saw damning evidence,

cross_hatch stitching _ an original wound and repair.

Now the distributor said that it was a close out,

no returns or guarantees against flaws, if accepted on delivery _

see the small print on the back of your receipt.

Maybe they could fix it. But the first repair hadn’t worked.

I had my first fight with them, told them

the Attorney General’s Office objected

(to unadvertised seconds, to small print, to disclaimers, etc.),

had the next with a wife who wouldn’t help bring it back

when I couldn’t make an appointment, who wouldn’t do anything for me.

As I had to drive off into a storm to make another,

she threw me out, got an order, refused to talk.

When this storm, too, abated, I could clearly see

the terms had been liberal, a few dollars

a month, a divorce, a lifetime of repentance.

The lesson when purchasing sofas, Love Seats, et al,

was to look for the small print,

know that you could not see all on the back,

that you might have to grow into it,

for seams to tear, flaws to tell.

Damage once present was forever, repairs would never hold,

and however much care, purchase held terror.

It was always a matter of Trial and Error.

It was a case for the People’s Court:

the case of the Defective Love Seat.







I bought a New England home

built a New England home

worthy of Waldo,

A House of Possibility.

Bought one to be Beginning,

Breakthrough breathing throughout

with only Brightness, Hope not Hopelessness,

not Hell, but Heaven on Earth.

Over my Garden and Roof, only

fair-weather cloud & Plethora Possibility,

through my grove of birch could only whistle Rain,

Gales of Gold, gales of liquid Joy.

I thought I built with Planks of

Unquestionable Potential, Cedar of Certitude,

incapable of Collapse.

That day has fled,

Night thunders into open windows,

washes walls, cascades down stairs,

a Flood rising in every Room,

every room full of wriggling Shadows,

and Nightmare dogs in my Footsteps.

I thought my front door Beginning.

I carried my Bride over the Threshold &

found the Other Side

seeming Ending &


Abrupt Eviction.

without Warning, without Reason, or Cause….

My Shadow and I walked into

our Farmhouse kitchen that day, and

the Colors ran and faded before our eyes,

Dreams dispersed like Smoke from Woodfire.

Our Loss still Haunts it today,

& under our eyes as we watch

that great expanse of Green & Blue, Lawn & Sky

Darkened with a Night of Stormcloud & Fire.

Storm descended to Hover over our Gazebo.

I thought I could see Snakes & Dragons tumble in the Murk,

hear Foghorn moan and Thunder clap.

O, my Eden, my Eve, My Evelyn, my Evangeline….

As I watched, Pain flowered all over my Garden,

Flowered into exotic, parti_colored Succulents.

I sought the Key, the Compensation, the Why, &

Could only utter, "Oh, My!"

Could only utter the cry.








Imagine this man

trying to sell me this dog,

this short man

with long, mane-like black hair,

moustache, waggish grin,

a heart full of love,

and dog-like plea

in eyes asking you to like him.

"Couldn’t you keep a dog?"


"With all this space

in a big old New England house,

you have to have space

enough for my buddy,"

his smile seemed to say.

"I found him standing

lost and confused

in the middle

of two intersecting streets.

Probably abandoned.

Like a few others,


in that park

behind your house."

I smiled,

knowing that somehow

my house and yard

and the park behind

routinely became home

for the abandoned,

just like my waggish friend.

I no longer had time or patience

for this pooch,

but I think he found

another home anyway,

and my friend went on to adopt

a house of lost dogs, dozens

at the mercy of an Animal Officer

who struggled

to keep roof over their heads,

to keep herself and dogs fed,

to forestall death decrees,

to find good homes

for the poor, unwanted.

A hard job, acting as Savior

for the doggish of this world.


My waggish friend,

this short man

with such a big heart,

with long hair,

moustache and sad eyes,

laughing and dead-pan

all the same,

my simple carpenter,

my poor handyman,

told me of feeding time,

how he’d walk to the right

and all the heads, behind their bars,

would turn right,

he’d walked to the left,

they’d all look to the left,

and for effect

looked to the right

and slowly looked to the left

and said

all the heads

would turn right

and would turn left

following him,

my Pied Piper.

I imagined dozens of tongues,

all hanging in anticipation,

but laughed, told him

he’d missed his occupation --

stand-up comedy.


This waggish man

with such a doggone expression,

this man another friend

pronounced, "Somewhere

between Lost & Found."

Strange how the lost

or near lost

always seem to find

the lost.

Anyway, to wrap up this,

my short story,

I didn’t keep the dog,

but doggone it,

seemed to have

adopted the man,

at least for the while,

enough so that another friend

protested, "You married him!"

Somehow, some of us forever

pick up strays.

I offered my handyman

work, a chance

to make himself handy.

Gave him my rear room

one time, another

my living room couch.

At least we tried

to make a place for him

in the family

until as the doggish do,

he made a mess

in my car and

on my floors

and had to go

and was finally found

under the freedom of open sky,

sleeping forever

in another park,

as will happen to those

who don’t find a home

of their own

in sufficient time,

those the great

Animal Officer

of this world can’t help.

A sad story

for all times

of a short, waggish man,

with a big heart,

with long hair and moustache

and sad eyes,

a crossroads story.








We heard of his passing

after the fact, assumed

others wouldn’t have known

& called and emailed all.

A mutual friend sent an "urgent"

note belatedly, "Is it confirmed?!"

Another mutual friend had

bumped into him,

after he was supposed

to have passed, she swore;

before she escaped

back to her home in Canada,

they had talked of his plans

for the future, for reform.

Well, we’ve all known

he had had this way of slipping

out of tight situations,

a latter-day Houdini,

and he had been laying low,

on the lam, if you will.

Still, his mother

is supposedly hosting him today,

his ashes on her mantle,

and we’re all planning

this memorial celebration.

I can write with a laugh.

Slip out of this,

if you can, my friend!

Little likelihood he’ll

watch his funeral from afar

like Huck Finn watching friends

dragging the muddy Mississippi

for his miserable body.

Or like Mark Twain himself

opening a newspaper

and reading his own obituary;

having the last laugh.

Confirmation? Can anyone

prove St. Peter accepted

a poor soul

at His Gate

with open arms,

a radiant smile

and gift of Grace?

Suddenly, I can hear

the laughter of this Archangel,

this Gabriel, laughter

surpassing churchbells

for this funeral feast!

Oh, he’s has uncaged himself,

this poor carpenter,

free, now,

in another country,

free, as Whitman was free.

Look, now, he might say,

I’m in the soil

and in the leaves

of grass

under your shoes,

in the light

and bright blue pane

of sky overhead;

free now,

in that other country,

in that other place.







I don't know whether

there will be time enough for this

I fear that it will be lost

amidst the clutter of this house

remnants of meals, unwashed dishes,

letters going out, coming in

kept, as we strive to recover ourselves,

opened and unopened books,

a husband and wife's clothing (intimate and other),

a child's toys, carelessly tossed on the carpet,

unkept, unkempt,

dreams sloppily scattered across the

floors, the walls, the air, the windows of this house.

I don't know



A man from a volcano came to me today.

He was born in the volcano, grew.

I, too, yesterday, explored a volcano house

microscopic. Too small for anyone to see.

Too large not to be missed, not to be

entered. I pray, a doll's house, dream house, entered.

On the corner of Aetna Street &

an imagined Volcano Street – or

so I was prepared to say

To underline the place, the pain.

Oh, you steaming Mexican, Hawaiian craters,

mine is like yours & different.

Whether or not I revisit that centuries old home,

its carpeted rooms, doorways, halls,

whether or not I finger its switches, faucets, sills,

whether or not I again run fingertips over its wainscoting

& intricately designed wallpapers, I will now never leave.



A woman doctor, psychologist, writer, talked

this morning on the radio in my head

of lives, love, & fateful encounters,

sweeping us up in life's lava,

life's and love's searing pain. These we meet --

Stop us, transfix us in time.

Postcards from volcanoes erupting here,

Dickinson's, Stevens' man from a volcano

floating in the sun, coursing on the molten flow,

remnants like the clutter I fingered in this house

like the grainy panels of this house's walls

and wondered where it might fit, where we might fit,

fateful & kept here, mine is a different volcano,

not just a chance leaving, a particular pumice,

like the floating honeycombed stones I used to collect,

cast from distant fires & Fate on a Boston shore! Not just

a historic volcano whose peak we live under,

as we live under unmitigated poverty, inequality,

mine's that & the volcano of these

now just cluttering here, waiting to

be fingered, understood, ordered, waiting to be given voice,

selves waiting to be recovered, humanity redeemed,

I don't know whether in this eternity

of humanity, I don't know whether

there will be time. . . .








They come in the dead of night

as I work the graveyard shift

just before the blizzard’s onslaught

and just like the Secret Police

of Old World Prague, Budapest, or Berlin.

"We’d like to talk to you, please,"

I am told; and am asked about relationships,

disputes, hopes and fears, ideals and dreams,

about weapons -- knives, guns, gun licenses

(don’t believe in them, I say frankly) –

and unspecified crimes. At three they hand me

my papers, my expulsion order (crime undeclared):

expelled from wife, son, bed, kitchen and home,

banished, exiled, dispossessed. Hours later

I walk into the desperate waking day’s wet streets

too ashamed to call anyone to ask the way,

walk blizzard-beaten, ice and snow-enameled pavement,

walk into the waiting week, weeks, storm-stunned.

I have coat, sweatshirt, jeans, underwear, sox and shoes.

I have my wallet, my ATM card, my credit cards.

My only immediate place to sleep, a ’76 Chevette

(a briefcase, a few books, Matthiessen, Feidelson, Howe,

Thoreau, and Hawthorne’s appropriate SCARLET LETTER in back).

My library, files, correspondence, manuscripts -- lost.

I am told I can return home to get things,

but they say they will have to accompany me;

the police say also they have no time, and perhaps

I might be asked to pay the cost of their salaries

for the duration of the escort. The second day,

I hear that she has to be there, have you arranged it?

But I’m not supposed to talk to her, to call, write,

communicate through an intermediary. It is open-ended, he says.

One says she called, said she never wanted to have you arrested,

may drop it all, relent. It was a mistake. And he’d never

have issued the warrant, if he’d interviewed her first.

Has anyone ever said she’s not playing with a full deck, he asks?

Another: they want to prosecute those like you,

disgruntled husbands, no matter what she chooses, you see.

It’s the times, you must understand. It’s an Affair of State now.

I protest I’ve never broken a law, never had a problem,

from when I went through an impossible disciplinarian high school

without so much as a misdemeanor mark, a rare achievement. But no matter.

Another: speak to the Clerk of the Court to get the order amended.

I go back to Court, the Clerk tells me to go to Probate.

Could I do that myself, could I do it soon? He only smiles

as if to say, don’t dream. And don’t waste our time.

I buy some underwear from a discount house

(shirts and pants, replacement sweaters and vests, too dear).

I buy shaving cream, toothpaste, comb, and the like.

Around me people dance and sing Christmas, Hanukkah,

but my own holiday cheer this season for cards, friendship -- frozen.

Humbled, I am taken in by a friend, sheltered, fed.

Privacy, independence, and (offered a pork chop for dinner)

even my diet now another’s, I am lost displaced, alone.

Father, I think, we were so unalike, at odds, perhaps

perhaps this is what you knew when as a teenager you left Poland,

wandered Europe, leaving dearly-bought parts of you,

libraries (even more costly to transport, ship, or store),

in cities too many to remember, somehow staying one step ahead

of the Reich, the Nazis, the ovens that were to consume all that you knew.

Perhaps this is how you remembered family and estate

in another time, in another country. Perhaps this is why

you were always so reluctant to eat at another’s,

whomever we could visit, family, friends, customers, stopping

always to eat out before we would arrive, leaving us embarrassed

at others’ generosity, for we never understood.

A sometimes man of letters, books, I think of others,

now seemingly distant cousins, of Franz powerless before his

infallible Father-judge, fearful of bosses arriving to knock

at his door, invade his home, berate him for unfathomable reasons,

at officials arriving to wake him and hand him his papers

placing him on Trial without explanation, without good cause.

Of Vladimir, whose Russian fairy tale palace’s noble childhood

swept away by 1917’s Bolshevik avalanche seemingly now in another dimension.

Friends, let me out of your world, I didn’t ask for it;

let me walk off and lose myself in the shadows.

This isn’t a TV drama, why does it seem I’m walking off into a storm

of music, a symphony, a Bach fugue echoing in my steps?

Open my car door, even my Chevette seems to cough counterpoint,

still ever so slowly hauling me along up over Belmont Hill to more toil.

Stormy days pass like cymbals, money flies away like lost notes

for necessities, bills that somehow stick to my fingers,

a new exhaust, a weld when I step through the car floor, debt

repayment, food, and soon, a single room, a doctor, lawyer, lawyers.

Let me walk deeper into the shadows, perhaps I will be free.

One night I wake and, my credit cards, where are they?

My license, my company photo ID, my ATM cards -- all missing.

Like other things gone before, tokens of identity, things that had made me.

I am truly dispossessed, one among the lost.








for Amos

& Ralph

Spring, time of sudden, startling revival,

reawakening, reversal, and I stare

at my spring garden and sadly wonder

what could have so stealthily plucked

yet another row of innocent seedlings

from their dark earth beds and left not a trace.

Yesterday a dozen zucchini, pepper, and tomatoes

stood proudly at attention, today a row of craters

and not a footprint in the soft, warm, black soil.

On the front lawn my Nigerian "uncle,"

guest here since he fell ill,

now stirs himself, revived with the season,

and stretches out greedily seeking every ray

for his health, an incongruity, a black shape

sucking in spring’s bright rays, with his complexion

a black sheep in this New England Eden,

no, better, an exotic African eggplant

rooting, growing in my very garden!

Suddenly from under the barn, these three,

four, five fat, furry creatures stick out their heads,

raise curious noses to the sky, and assured

all is safe and to their liking, bolt out and

like tailless beaver gambol about our lawn.

One little one goes right to my seedlings,

and I see my thieves, caught black-pawed

and red-handed in the light of day. The monsters!

It’s a veritable Picnic on the Grass!

Slowly, disbelievingly, shaking my head as if

to clear my sight of them, I carry on with my work

from inertia; carry the day’s clippings

to the compost heap behind the garage. I turn,

and another little one has followed right behind me!

Raising and twitching its rump, resting on its front paws,

sniffing the air, and looking on intently with little boyish

Disney-like curiosity. As if to discover what I was all about.

"No!" I shout with puzzlement and anger.

"Don’t you know you were supposed to be afraid?"

And with a wild wave at the barn, "That you were supposed

to run and hide? Get away with you!" I said, voice rising.

"They’re only innocent little animals; don’t hurt them,"

my warrior carpenter warned threateningly as he arrived.

"Yesterday, one of the old ones was lying out there on the lawn

and sunning himself beside your sleeping Nigerian friend.

They slept and snored, side by side." But my elder African uncle,

my erudite professor of history, arising from his slumber and

stumbling upon my Court with saucer-wide eyes can only

look on, patting his stomach and offering with unfeigned delight,

"What a wonderful meal they would make!" His mouth almost watering.

Education aside, almost a cannibal ready to fire his iron pot.

For all my anger, I’m horrified, and my carpenter furious: "Eat pets?"

"Eat the children!" And I can only respond with wild, rueful mirth, what a sight,

with this group of animals indeed acting like human parents with children,

and my civilized and urbane friends

acting no more than like animals.

Oh, I thought, with the revelation of this cruel spring light,

this is Nature. This, but Animal Spirits at work!

And man and animal, animal and man, species not so far apart

as you would have like to have thought. These the lessons

of the earth with its narcotic warmth. The responsibilities of man and art to share

this earth, this place, this peace, this other heaven, for however so long

our sojourn. This the spring wisdom, the spring fright.








                                                   for Janet


Astrophysicists who determine

size and shape and worth for our world

argue that the universe is saddle-shaped,

if space is filled with dark matter, flat if not.

All hinges upon the shape of nothingness,

and on hints of cosmic terror. If saddle-shaped,

inappropriate and inelegant for the Emersonians

who complain that things were in the saddle

riding ruckshod over all of us, Facts our Fate.

How appropriate, then, our shopping trip

through the local super market,

to pick up a handful, a mess of lobsters, live,

watch them scramble on the steel scale,

the value of their small universe.

Weighed and measured, it was duly noted

that scale was shaped like a steel saddle.

I remember when in high school working

behind that fish counter, the

steaking or filleting of salmon or trout,

tuna, Chilean sea bass, tilapia, or Australian orange roughy,

selecting the Captain’s Cut or whatever, Karma

for one well read in literary pursuit of Moby-Dick

to fall into such fish-works. We were taught to slam live

lobster into the steam for five minutes,

then to pop them out, plump, moist, steamy, and cherry red.

"Don’t feel a thing, don’t know what hits them, poor critters."

Or so they used to tell those of us who worked the steamer.

I remember one guy working in a T with a picture of the granddaddy

of all lobster dropping small squirming naked men and women and children

into a steaming caldron, and our laughter at the nightmarish fantasy.

No, the poor critters don’t feel a thing and are honored to be on our plates.

I’d laugh at the thought. Laugh, that is, until the day two lobster seemingly

jumped off their scales, and a half dozen of these tongueless, speechless creatures

let off from their scale a great wailing, a tearless, wailing, terror-stricken cry

so high and shrill as to make your teeth shiver. With fallen face, I asked, "How?"

Suddenly saw the creatures were quickly dragging their ragged claws back and forth

over those silver saddles, as if knowingly, intelligently, creating a cry of the universe,

a shriek of cosmic despair. Oh, the universe and everything seemed saddle-shaped

that day, and everything seemed to cry of steel limitations. A Yankee steamed supper

suddenly seemed the least palatable of meals, a tossed salad of dark matter and dark

vision, my friends and I imaged caught in our own boiling pool of existence,

the world, a harsher place now, stretching from freezing cold to boiling hot,

heedless of the individual, a gamut with mere existential zones of survival

and zones of dissolution, comfort or discomfort, simply by chance.







                          for Carl Sagan & Stanley Kunitz,

                          poets & astronomers both


I always read about comets,

know the images and theory

of their origin and make-up.

In elementary school I read


fantastic tale of baleful days

of seeing an angry red eye

dominate the sky

as it hurtled onward

and felt the chill

of the wake, the ebb and flow,

the shudder to the earth

as we finally went through that tail.

I remember the wonderful bookcover, the image

of struggling humanity sent back

to primitive time

by the almost nuclear holocaust

and still staring at the sky, stunned.

It was bad science, I know,

if effective fiction for a youngster:

fiction felt deeply, remembered.

Comets for decades of my life thereafter were forgotten,

consigned to the closets, the dark boxes of experience,

distant, almost abstract, unreal,

known only in the math & film of the astrophysicist.

Reality had paled before poetry.

Until that season several appeared, naked to the eye.

Nightly on the way to work, I’d see Hayakutake

slanted over Walden

Books and Lexington Center

and, more amazingly, nightly, see the next,

Hale-Bopp slanted over R128 North

even through the windshield of the moving car!

And on one particularly clear night from my backyard

seemed to see a tail stretched halfway across the sky!

To this day I don’t know whether real or imagined.

I came to feel them not-so-distant friends

and for the first time think of myself, a spec on a sphere,

lost, triangulated somewhere in the cosmos.

Somehow, I still feel friendly connection

and distant relations

though, the next time on that road,

the universe threw a hissing,

fuzzy ball of light

over my shoulder,

a fireball

that left me open-mouthed,

though it immediately – and luckily –

popped into nothingness.


Oh, I was watching still as that other Eye in the sky,

the Hubble, sent pictures of a third, Shoemaker_Levy 9

breaking into a series of angry, fiery fists

that pummeled Jupiter

for all mankind to see

and remembered pictures of volcanic eruptions

wreaking havoc on its moon Europa,

just at the moment we skimmed its surface.

By amazing, mathematically improbable


But after the revelation

of my heavenly friends

for the first time

we all find such places real, and I

can only think this a part

of a divine dance,

a waltz with the universe

and its lords

coming to life,


and showing they were there

and watching, too,

as we drove through

their outer city limits.








On this dreamlike

Moonlit night

With the crystal clarity of

perfect reflection,

he awakened as in a dream.

His dream animal a gray wolf

stalked about empty cages,

the lone circus animal

this gray steppenwolf

on a concrete apron, a circus-like

white floor. Somehow he knew

he had somehow slipped free,

stalked restlessly, restlessly,

and so relentlessly for a way out,

sought futilely for a way out.

Everywhere cages, cages, cages,

everywhere their cold black iron bars

and the black lines of their shadows,

strange, surreal shadows

looming even larger than the bars,

and everywhere palpable menace.

Suddenly he backed up, spun around.

Began hurriedly, hurriedly, hurriedly

retracing his steps, weary and hungry.

After a short while, THERE, there, he saw it,

the open cage door. He slunk in, muzzled

the door shut behind him, dropped to the floor

and, protected by the cage and iron bars,

stretched out and immediately fell into sleep.

There, he lay twitching, twitching, softly

whimpering as invisible snouts reached

between the bars to nip at his pelt, nip at flanks.

In a deep dream sleep,

under a bloody full moon, invisible

enemies snapping at his heels,

he loped off, off into the night.








              "The crane is my

              favorite bird."

                                   -- Joe Moakley


Never really thought much

of the Cranes, that is

Steven Crane, Red Badge of Courage

and all; sophomoric, I thought,

unusual for the nineteenth century,

though I liked his girl Maggie,

the flower of all city streets.

Nor did I like that other Crane,

Hart Crane, Bridge, Brooklyn and all.

Buying his palaver as good

as buying that Brooklyn Bridge.

I thought Hart and his anguish

too fashionable, too existential,

at least too much so for me.

I never thought much of the Cranes

or of literary criticism.

Now that other Crane, another matter,

hatched out of bedrock,

his feet plumb vertical,

straight under him;

his bones, steel strong.

His wings reaching upward

and out for that great blue heaven.

His energies bringing much cod and herring

and many nests to our bay shore.

Moakley’s Crane, a rare bird,

indeed, the rarest of all,

for his unceasing work all over our land

for his charity to all other birds,

working our flats, our quays,

for his soaring, yet unassuming flight.

Moakley’s Crane, a rare bird,

a bird of another feather.

Silhouetted under the setting ruddy sun

in his time you could see

the steel black silhouettes of legs and arms and necks

sprouting up all over,

multiplying many times over,

reaching up all over our horizons,

stretching our very horizons,

his steel black silhouettes of fertile wings stretching

over innumerable nests in our mud.

Abou, abou, for time is short and his comes to an end.

Abou, abou, for time is short and his comes to an end.

Abou, abou, for the one may die, and live forever in the tribe.


Moakley’s Crane. A rare bird,

a bird of another feather,

a real eagle, Moakley’s Crane.








One morning mother told me

about her Rabbi,

with a name just like ours.

Eskowitz, Lefkowitz..

Said she’d met him

walking the streets

in her old Dorchester haunts.

I was visiting her then at the home,

in imagination rolled up my eyes,

inwardly groaned.

I already knew about her midnight walks

all over old Dorchester, in sleep, in dream.

And now, an imaginary friend, a Rabbi no less?

So later that Tuesday morning she told me

she’d introduce me to her imaginary Rabbi.

He visited Tuesdays and Saturdays.

I smiled to myself.

Regular, wasn’t he?

And shortly thereafter met the Rabbi.

Lefkowitz. Contracted to the home,

to the Star of David.

A man with amazing eyebrows

who taught history and theology

and served as Rabbi, all part_time.

Mother had a really remarkable way of doing that.

Every time I thought they might be right,

that she might be lost in some deluded fantasy,

she’d pull me up, show me just how wrong I was.

I never knew for sure, but supposed

she’d first met him on some outing. In Dorchester.

So mother’s Rabbi introduced himself,

a friendly fellow.

Chuckling to himself,

told me how Saturdays

mother had even started going to services.

My untrained, unobservant mother?

Observing the Sabbath?

Orthodox in her old age?

Oh, our canny Rabbi knew.

He had to have something special

to bring this congregation to him,

this crowd.

The Rabbi told me so.

An inexpensive bottle and a little pickled herring.

And they all followed him to the Chapel, this Pied Piper!

The Rabbi congratulated himself

on successfully employing Group Psychology,

and my mother, with her non8institutional meal, Real Politic.

God was like that, worked in amazing ways.

And mother was like that;

just when you thought you knew.








She would go out, ironically forced to KEEP OUT

of elderly housing she loved so to keep spirits up,

to ward off waiting depression. Knowingly. Willfully.

Now they had locked her in, locked her up, for her own good,

and they thought there would be no further incidents

(not that she fell more than you or I), no getting lost

(not that she ever got lost), so she would be EASY TO KEEP.

So they thought. But now she walked out nights

all over Dorchester, over her old haunts,

as she dutifully reported back mornings

before sleep had cleared out of her eyes.

Mornings those days at the nursing home,

she literally bubbled over, rambling. She’d been

on Quincy Street. On Wayland. On Intervale. At the old

Dorchester High. And maybe she’d been on Blue Hill Ave.

At Grove Hall with Morris and Ida, our old favorite aunt and uncle

long since passed out of our lives.

The nurses smiled knowingly,

made notes in their log books. "More confusion, dementia."

I saw the rumpled, unmade bed, and knew otherwise.

I saw the sleep in her eyes and knew she’d just gotten up,

and knew that she’d walked out long and far alone in the dark.

Another morning they wrote she lay still and straight as a board,

as the nurses, frightened, or probably just impatient,

tried to rouse her, called to her, exhorted her,

"Bertha, are you there? Can you get up?"

They prodded her, tickled her feet, to no avail,

as she refused to, willfully happy

until much later. She told me, the social worker asked,

"Bertha, are you all right?" And she had returned the question,

"Do you know what it’s like to lose your freedom?" Another

morning just after, sitting up in her chair by her bed

gesturing to the bed, to the rumpled sheets, she said with

finality, "Even THAT doesn’t help anymore." I understood,

only I, but even I wasn’t prepared, when logically, successfully,

a few days later she did not return, was not there anymore.









    …beyond the horizon

a distant station

    …on a lonely cetaceous isle

in the dark watches sucking waters

            swirl ‘round, charts masked craggy shoals

    and rip tides and relics of crustacean past.

Lonely light, life beating pulse cries out,

    "I am here, I am here, I am here, here

    there’s signification," if only that the pulse

speaks of found shoals, of surrounding

        hovering dark and deathly fear

that shoal darkness will call

    all onlookers in

        for the long night.

            "I am here, I am here,

             I am…."

    I did but recently know

of that light

        …and small circle

    …of home space.

It wasn’t that before

domesticity was blacked out against

    air raid and piratical ravaging, just that

it was obscure in the vast surrounding

    howling sea, a spot on my map only,


                … somewhere

            . . .out there.


        Now and then I take the copter

            to the mainland, it mapped out and

supposedly secure. I pass over rushing

    waters and uncharted nubs of rock

        too small to be previously noted,

perhaps now thrust upward by some

    …subtle shift

                …in the geosphere,

        …by accretion

    …or by cataclysm unseen

above wave, and warily wonder if other

adventurers might have already settled there,

claimed these

            …forbidding spots

        … for home,

    whether they might already chart from them

    changing seas, churning tides _ glorious gold

stretch of sea under flaming diurnal sun,

sea stretching horizon to horizon




                        …I patiently chart

on my old sailor’s chart,

                        while each settler,

I suppose,

    …peering through his own black,

            …adds chart-experience

he only can know.


is consequent part

        …of that thin grid

    …stretching across the dark,

grid of distant stations speaking

and sometimes,

    only sometimes, speaking

to each other, more often speaking and lonely,

        heard by no other; though consequent,

each can only be gradually known

among his neighbors, and with each,

…the pattern

                        …of the slowly shaping whole.


            Oh, the whole evolving picture

is pre-set in its either-or’s,

    and individual

            bits of rock

can appear less relevant, but

    climbing an overlooking height

and looking down on the sun-struck bay,

                the whole suddenly appears,

sparkling diamond shreds

    scattered across an equally sparkling sea,


in some mind’s eye,


        beneficently framed

by an abundantly

    smiling sky.





                         December, Nineteen Hundred Eighty One


Often do the spirits

Of great events stride on before the event

And in today already walks tomorrow.

                                 -- Schiller, Wallenstein



Snow shrouding Boston Commons in mid-December.

Swan boats long since stilled by frozen

Ponds and rivers, arteries congealed,

Snow falling falling from the heavens over countless

golden capitol domes,

On the Caffeeh”user of Vienna,

On the shops of Budapest

And Prague

And against the doors and windows of Gdansk.


Light two candles of the Menorah on the first day,

Light them in the dusk of Hanukkah.




The attack came on December thirteen.

The world-heart skipped in its beat.

The nation-body stiffened,

Eyes glazed under the shroud of martial law

Cast in the dead of winter by weasel-eyed

Generals and Soviet marshals over the body and people

of Poland.

It came as craven souls questioned themselves

At the commons’ request to reconsider relations, simply

To question direction of one’s feet - last straw;

Leading heart failed.

It was a dark cold day for man.

Choked with drifts of self-concern, people had panicked,

Fled through storm for the border on the Chopin Express

And in a crescendo, a concert of uncertainty and fear,

Now returned on the Chopin Express

To find families to protect,

Know their fate, and if necessary in Holocaust times,

To die with them.

Crescendo burst in directionless, discordant notes,

Choral climax of tragic theme too much for Chopin,

Hosha’nas and pizzicatos, basses and off-key sopranos,

Welter of voices too many for the presses.

It was a dark cold day for man.


On the second day light three candles against the dark,

Three candles of hope….




Voices of autos were to run dry under bans, society’s cogs

and wheels to stop.

Meetings were forbidden, presses and pens broken off in mid-line,

All to be unwritten, all to be unread;

Tongues were silenced with books, locked.

Phone receivers hung empty;

Television eyes darkened, stared back blank,

Or repeated the same grim message,

Like the self reviewing itself before its end.

The war games were on, heads in Warsaw were waging war

on the body of the people.

- Do not fear, all’s well,

Repeated a stiff military man,

The self’s Mental Censor.

Citizens who disobey only

Who refuse to work

For the greater glory of the state

Will be impounded or shot;

And impounded, released only

When they believe what they ought

Believe, said the self’s Mental Censor;

And minds revolted.

In the dead of winter blackness of black of absolute bans

Descended upon street corner and common parlor.

Descended for a second time upon modern history.


Light another candle against the dark.




Galilean decree given with religious dread,

Some peered anxiously up through snowy skies at planets

Just above, Jupiter with her belts and family of four moons

Easily visible, Saturn with her majestic rings, even Mars,

Ancient warrior of the Gods, still all whirling unhesitatingly

In their orbits with the earth about the sun, not sun about the earth,

No more so moveable than a volcano might explode inward,

Than clouds can fall or raindrops drop up into the heavens.

Still, Marxists cast their fellows in indoor cells,

Even cast members of the central Presidium

In this attack of the self against itself, this Inquisition.

And each man was cast in the prison of his home,

Each locked in the cell of himself,

All feared to ask others of their fear.

Doors closed upon silent door,

Empty room lead to empty room,

Window faced upon window with drawn shade.

Only Roman Catholics seemed to meet and in echoing

Churches prayed alone in silence for peace together.


Light another candle against the dark.




All that escapes from behind the curtain of blackness,

Lines tracing flickering pictures, indistinct on

oval screens of glass.

A world peers through that fence at a lonely place,

Distant walking soldiers on snowy cold streets,

Tanks on city corners,

Or pictures frozen in oval snapshot, stilled from the glass -

still page one news on man’s cold dark days,

All that escapes from behind the curtain of blackness.

"The Killing Begins," has begun, will begin, they say, but voices

are muffled;

Tragedy made known in frozen pictures of eloquent silence.

Snowy tracks on a Warsaw waste crisscrossing

Across a screen, tracks to nowhere,

Speaking the unspeakable,

Making the unknowable known.


Light another candle against the dark.




Hidden, caught in pitchblack

Corridors thousands of feet under

Frozen sod, coal-laden earth,

Sons of the earth renounce relations with the dark

world above,

Faces shining dimly in hand-held lamps, thought lost

in itself,

Words ascending and vanishing in the black void.

Miners, recall your ambassadors;

Workers, close your doors and windows to all entreaties.

Come, brothers, close your borders;

Come, shred your treaties with those above,

Flee from your tyrannical work into your world of work,

alone your own, rightfully home

For the alienated, defined by the word, imprisoned in the word

Worker; how dare they touch you in the earth? They know not

What they do. You are the sons of the earth, its rightful heirs,

they know not….

Seize your own nests in fear,

Suffer cold and hunger in fear of fear,

And to suffer is to endure and love and hope.

You cannot ascend from yourself for fear, cannot hope

for hope,

In fear for your freedom, in defiance and triumph persist

in that fear,

For persistence alone is your hope and movement,

And darkness, your sole light.


Light another candle against the dark.




A Walrus

                       and a Weasel

did dance

              a political dance

                                             in fear,

that one would step too far,

that one would step back,

           or wouldn’t,

     fear that the music would stop

                                                    or wouldn’t.

                        Progress and Regress

                        Despair and Hope,

that the circle wouldn’t be broken,

that the rhythm would pick up

    and grow stronger and smoother

          and that to dance

              would truly be

                                     to rejoice.


And even dancers light another candle,

Light a candle on the seventh day.




and the Macabees refused soldiers’ demands for unclean

sacrifice to Zeus, and Mattathias the father called,

"Whoever is for the Lord, let them follow me!" and

turned on the soldiers and drove them out of town, and

left themselves for the mountains with the Hassidim who

would rather die than render homage to Caesar, homage to

false gods. And they knew that the soldiers would return. And

the Macabees read in "Daniel" how the worthy had suffered

before for believing in their faith, until God saved them,

punished the wicked, and destroyed the cruel and unjust

king with his false nation. And given courage in their trial,

the little bands of Jews turned upon the philistines, and for

those of the Macabees who fell in battle, others seeing the

cruel treatment came and took their places, and the Macabees

defeated an army many times their size, a second, a third.

And in two years Mattathias the father and Judah his son

captured and entered Jerusalem. And the 25th of Kislev was

declared holy day, "Hanukkah" or "dedication" for the

rededication of the Temple and the relighting of the

Menorah that had been put out by the philistines.

And one day’s small container of oil, source of so

much fear for its endurance, burned wondrously through

a second and a third, burned eight days until oil

enough had been found, for truthfulness and honor,

courage and pride and care and love of justice and

liberty are forever with striving and hope and strength

oil enough, and the light fed upon itself and belied oil

and wick and set aglow other Menorah and light in ever-

widening circumference. And for the first time in 400

years since Babylon conquered Judea, they came to be

free from foreign rule, and in wonder the light

burned forever





Some moralist or mythological poet

Compares the solitary soul to a swan.

I am satisfied with that,

Satisfied that it will say all,

When you hear that he says too that

Poland, that ugly duckling of a nation

And her heroes become the swan,

That out of drab khaki conformity

And rejoicing in today,

She blooms into her own - for her freedom and ours – blooms

Like winter lightning in the night dark sky or

Crocuses amidst the last spring snow.

And with care for the common man as man

And candid strength of character and a pragmatism

That rejoices in Today

And refuses religious immolation of self

In Tomorrow of Church or State, hope of fear,

With hope and courage to risk and certainty in her uncertainty,

Crocuses appear amidst the spring snows.

The Duckling has changed in the twinkling of an eye,

Has shaken free of frozen ponds and rivers

With majestic wings fanning the world’s are,

And has leaped into desolate December heavens

to prove herself forever a shining example among peoples,

a Swan.


Light another candle on the eighth day, the ninth;

Let all burn, burn fiercely against the dark.