poems

 

A Walk After Dinner

An hour of silhouettes:

It’s leaves like sponged paint

pressed against clean linen—

branches brushed with ebony 

in a heavy hand,

and dusted with amber streetlight—

trunks like wet pastels swept sideways, 

soaking into sleeping mulch. 

 

This hour is its own shadow, 

itself and its outline. 

 

A tree’s roots lengthen 

behind the drying oils

of these minutes. 

Dry Mornings

When the candle wax over this morning cools, 

I hope it fastens all as it is, now. 

 

I hope it stiffens over still countertops

and stool legs, over dinner dishes 

stacked like a house of cards—

the towel underneath already dry 

from soapy droplets. It caught and drank 

while we slept in separate beds,

turned in our sweat

a floor above. 

 

I hope wax crusts over the dimness, 

settles the quiet grey 

dusting our floor tiles, 

a peaceful coating, 

like powdered sugar 

sprinkled on Ima’s french toast—

a sweet, mindful spread.

 

            Can you imagine a morning 

            embalmed in this mold, 

            hushed like a wasp in amber,

            its stinger idle, trapped by film? 

 

Now, sun thaws our window panes, 

rumbles of a lawnmower 

shake the cast of our light sleep. 

 

Our vents can try to maintain this stillness

only if doors remain closed. 

A Poem for Natan Alterman

Sidewalks crinkle from rainstorms

in Jersey, 

ridge between suburban valleys

and cave under flood-lines, 

like my Savta’s fingers

pruned from three generations 

of kneading dough 

and scrubbing baby scalps 

under the drip drip 

of a shower head

that never fully ceased its flow. 

 

This path darkens 

under trunk-form shadows 

like my Saba’s shoulders 

after tending to his lemon tree,

glistens like his watered eye

downcast, strolling home

from the neighborhood shul

Shabbat brimming his lashes. 

He carries his prayers 

to his wife’s dinner table. 

 

Cobbles weld in my under-sight,

eyes set on the stop sign 

at the end of the road.

Pebbles, silent and stable, 

and there, like sand from the yam

grinding my shoe’s laces, 

dragged into the sliding doors 

of Ben-Gurion, outbound. 

 

Is it a poem 

or a silver platter 

I feel in my back pocket

when the land grows still, 

the red eye of the sky 

slowly dimming over smoking frontiers?

 

 

The House on Blue Hill Street

Like clouds, 

I build people from window sills—

fill in sketchpads of their panes

with Monday nights.

Prints of tennis tournaments 

suspend from fridge magnets, 

notes for filo dough

fray thumbtacked to a cork overhang—

the recipe, a family heirloom;

the cork, left behind by the home’s 

previous owners. 

 

Faces eclipse

across channels of the glass.

I step, 

study a perspective painting—

 

Feather lines 

fringe a single mother’s eyes

because Jeopardy skips 

on her ex-husband’s TV box—

faulty cable from a man of faults—

and unpopped kernels fumble 

between her buttered fingers, 

lodge between stitches

of a faux Persian, 

also from a past love. 

 

Upstairs, a page

from a child’s coloring book. 

A baby wriggles in a bassinet 

between dreams 

of her mother’s heartbeat

and a father’s Sunday humming, 

too young to draw lines 

between memory and imagining. 

 

A house of drawings 

strung up by cedar boards 

on Blue Hill Street—

existence in outlines, 

like an artist’s sketchbook 

flipped open by the wind. 

A Basketball Left Outside for the Winter

Your form looks seasoned

from the endline.

Your streaks faded

where winter has fouled you, 

squeezed and stretched your leather,

tugged at your jersey

while the rest of us 

spent halftime behind a closed garage. 

 

Benched, you inhaled and held for a season, 

retired by the base of the hoop.

 

You wheeze a sluggish breath, 

air leaving you in whistles.

Neglectful months 

have rendered you unfit.

 

Can you lift from the sideline? 

Train the draft from your core? 

Polish court grime from the 

creases of your rubber, 

repaint your patterns

and roll into hands worthy of traveling? 

 

           Sneakers squeak near you,

           toe the boundary line—

           an afternoon dribble before 

           it gets too hot to play

           with shoes on.

 

           See, the way your shadow 

           stretches across the court, 

           taut, perfectly whole.

Graham v. Connor (1989)

Guns become soundless 

when their ringing

is omnipresent,

when their bullets 

are metronomic, 

when their tragedy

tastes prosthetic, 

grieved in phrases 

between sips

of morning coffee, 

lukewarm on our tongue. 

 

Their sounds 

were shrill with virus 

long before our illness 

forced us to listen. 

 

We think we know 

quarantine 

when bodies 

have been 

in lockdown 

for so long,

their chokehold is 

an army knot 

strung into the polyester 

of our legacy,

their gasps 

gusts of air 

behind claps 

of a waving flag. 

Quarantine in Overview

I have reached the back cover 

of my journal, blackened three 

yellow legal pads, I’ve soiled 

dinner plates with my dreams, 

self-published my poem in the 

blank pages of The Bluest Eye. 

 

I have taken to my basement 

walls to chart my meditations, 

the branches of my imagining.

Saddle Brook County Park

What would be my heaven? 

Trimmed grass, fresh with streaks. 

Trash cans just emptied, 

their bodies stretching shadows on asphalt. 

 

A swing in residue motion, 

slowing to stillness, 

its rubber seat still warm 

with a child’s joy. 

 

Distant voices and 

closer birds,

hushed and hastened gossip, 

circles coexisting. 

 

A forgotten soccer ball, 

a rusting metal bench, 

heaves of a passing jogger. 

 

Gradients of light 

as evening settles, 

from my parked car

around the pond’s winding walkway

through its forested trail

to the field

and back again. 

Heavy lids,

blue to a yawning grey. 

 

Night sounds clatter in the 

plastering dimness, 

a paradise lulled to rest.

If

If 

my heel balances between floorboards, 

halved by the middle creases, 

my foot will not slip into lava—

no quicksand will swallow my limb—

the flatness of my arch 

will not coat in the pollen 

fetched from the day’s 

outside stepping. 

 

If 

my nail pierces my palm, 

I can pretend a wasp found asylum in me, 

burrowed into my openness—

abandoned me with a kiss so sobering,

I felt its sting

long after it left me in  

my aloneness.

 

If

coffee chars my mouth,

my tongue turns to graphite

and I speak in stencil drawings,

calligraphy in licks.

If I make a face, you will laugh.

 

If

this space stores memories,

my days file between ventilator gusts—

I pen through moments,

my tongue marking revisions,

indentations,

tasting freshness at junctures

as they pass.

What We Watch

Do you, too, see wings in trees?

Cardinal feathers ruffle far-off branches,

somewhere

swaying in an outlined oak.

Surrounding twigs, a stencil etch from this perspective—

embers poke holes into a canopy. 

 

Do you, too, watch shadows across your porch? 

Lamp light dim,

morning glow draws in charcoal lines.

A backyard swing

sketched from its model’s hanging—

the seat catches wind, 

a portrait swells and retreats.

 

Do you, too, make shapes with your fingers?

Lips pucker between thumb and palm, 

a chapel erects from intertwined hands.

Wrists hook, fingers stretch, 

and a butterfly joins our play. 

 

Outside, 

a swallow tail docks on my window—

its toes kiss the glass, 

its tiger print wings span back, 

a rest between flight. 

It scans my sculpture hands,

my skin pale under kitchen lights,

and it launches—here, then gone.