Thursday, December 29, 2011

Meshach, Shadrach And Abednego

Four friends
From Philadelphia
Whom you
May also know
Four friends
From Philly
Who ended up
In prison
After a very sad row

It was all because of
Jealousy and greed
And a few
Ounces of weed
That two of them
Are now sitting
In the shadow of
Death row

Yes Lord
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about

You see
Meshach was
Jealous of
For being the
Lover of
I said that Meshach
Was jealous of
For being the lover of
And now
They’re all in
Graterford Prison
But it’s still better
Than goin to Hell
Yes Lord
I said they all
Ended up in
Graterford Prison
But it’s still better
Than goin to

Yes Lord
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about

It seems that
Meshach paid Jezebel
To lure her man
To the parking lot that night
I said that
Meshach paid Jezebel
To lure young
To the parking lot that night
And then Abednego
Struck him down
With an axe handle
And he did it all
Just for spite
Yeah  Lord
He did it all
Just for spite

Yes Lord
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about

Meshach and Abednego
Are sleepin in
Graterford prison tonight
But that
Miserable hussy
She’s still
Livin large they say
And they say
She’s doin alright

You see
She turned
State’s witness
And they let her off
Her havin lured
Young Shadrach
To the parking lot
That  night

Young Shadrach
Never saw what hit him
He never even
Had a chance to fight
And I doubt he’d be
Much comforted
If he’d known
Who did the slight

Yes Lord
I’m talkin about
I’m talkin about
And I’m talkin about

There’s no moral
To this story
And it’s not that
Unusual you know
In the city where
Such things happen
In the city where
The two rivers flow

Four of them
Were friends
Two were lovers
And the one was
A murderous foe

In the city
Where the
Two rivers flow
There’s literally
Hundreds more
Just like them
Just like

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Laughing Fat Lady

If you were born and raised
In Coney Island
During the Fifties
You were sure
To encounter
The Laughing Fat Lady
In the fortune teller’s booth at the
Astroland Amusement Park
In the alleyway
Penny Arcade
The Cyclone and
The Thunderbolt
And no matter where
You might be standing
In Coney Island
Whether strolling on the
Boardwalk or if you were
Eating a hot dog at
Nathan's Famous or
Whether you were
Riding the magnificent and
Indeed wondrous
Wonder Wheel
You would always
Be within earshot of her
Raucous and hideous
Peels of laughter

This rotund mechanical
Bogus gypsy fortune teller
Was famous for being
Morbidly obese
Long before being
Morbidly obese
Became totally cool

All you had to do
Was to deposit
A big fat silver nickel
Into her slot
And the fat lady
Would instantly begin to
Laugh and laugh
And laugh and laugh
Until her whole voluptuous
Fat body began to
Rattle and
While the rolls of her fat belly
Would shake up and down
And she had to hold her sides
Because the belly laughing
Seemed to hurt her so much
Because she was laughing
So hard
(At you? At me?)

The fat gypsy lady
Would laugh so hard
That the whole damned
Mechanical booth
Would begin to dance and shake
And dance and shake
Some more
Until she either had you
Laughing as uncontrollably
As she was or else
You ended up
Hating her for being
So damned fat and
So damned obtuse
And for laughing
So hard and so much
Over absolutely nothing

(Or maybe she was laughing
So hard because
The joke was on you
The natural born sucker
Who got suckered into
Paying the fake fat lady
A silver nickel
Just to get a postage sized
Ticket with a phony fortune
Predicting this or that
About your future
Your love life
Or a hundred other
Nonsensical things
Such as can be found
In every Chinese
Fortune cookie
Except that this fat lady
Wasn’t handing out
Shrimp rolls or
Egg Drop Soup)

And all you ever got
In exchange
For your hard
To come by
Silver nickels
Was to hear
The fat lady
Laugh her stupid and
Yet ever so
While she jiggled
Her big fat belly
In your filthy
Sticky and
Candy apple smeared

I tell you
There were days
When I wanted to
Strangle that
Fat assed
Mechanical witch
So annoying
And mocking
And sinister
Had her
Deliciously evil
Yet bizarrely
Non stop laughing
Ultimately become

There were days
(And nights too!)
When I could hear
The fat lady’s
Incessant and
Murderous laughter
Drifting to my ears
On the warm
Summer breeze
That drifted
Through the
Open bedroom windows
Of my high rise
Brighton Beach apartment
Overlooking the boardwalk
And the world famous
Coney Island
Parachute Jump

I swear
I could always
Hear the
Hideous peels
Of her laughter
Even above
The cacophonic
Tumult of
All the hurley gurley
Mechanical music machines
Of all the Coney Island
As they
Spun and whirled
In all their
Mardi gras finery
Gaily and madly
Festooned and
Aglow and
Ablaze with all their
Gaudiest strings of
Multi colored and
Psychedelic neon lights
While the painted wooden
And lions
And tigers
Would rise and
And rise and fall
Over and over again
Faster and faster
Spinning like
Out of control
Flying saucers

Like all of the spinning
And bewitched
Pin wheel galaxies
That light up the
South Brooklyn
Summer skies
Like the Tuesday night
Summer fireworks
That sounded as if
The D-Day
Normandy Beach Invasion
Had suddenly
Come to Brighton Beach
Boom! Boom!
Over the endless
Peels of
Riotous yet
Meaningless laughter!

All of that
For the price
Of one single
Silver nickel
With enough
Pocket change
Left over
For a nedick’s
Orange soda
And a couple of
Nathan’s hot dogs
With a sack of
Perfectly salted
French fries
To go

So go ahead
Fat lady
And laugh
Your disgustingly seductive
And endlessly irritating
Fat lady laugh
Just like
In your own gum tree
(And merry
Merry queen
Of the bush
Will you be!)

So please
Miss fat lady
In your  fake mechanical
Fortune teller’s booth
Please do
Go ahead
Once more
As I slide my
Hard to come by
Single nickel
Through the slot
In your always
Open door

And laugh
Your fat lady laugh
Just one more time
(For old time’s sake
If for nothing more!)
And this time
(Miss fake gypsy fat lady
In your fake mechanical
Phony fortune teller’s booth!)
Could you please
This one last time
Do it!
Do it!

Can you finally
See me now?
You have finally
Brought me to my knees and
I am begging you now!
So please
Go ahead and do your thing!
But this one time only
Please do it just for me!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit

If it is true that
Ex Nihilo Nihil Fit
That nothing comes from nothing
Then it must be equally true
That something must come
From something

String theory now predicts
That not only are
There multiple universes
But that these multiple universes
Have always existed
And always will
Continue to exist
Coming and going
In and out of existence
With each collision of
Dimensional membranes
Including the very special “brane”
That you and I call home

And if that which we term to be
The space time continuum is infinite
Then space time itself must be eternal
For only eternity
Can contain and expand enough
To accommodate infinity

And if we were to call the
Space time continuum by
Any other name
(Say for instance
Then we can begin to see
How God can be both
Infinite and eternal
Regardless of how many
Multi universes there are
And regardless of how many
Different dimensions there are
That may or may not exist

And if all of what
We now know to exist
Is called
“The Creation”
Then God’s presence
Must permeate it all
Because space time
Is both infinite and eternal

In conclusion therefore
We can say that
The universe is safe
And that all of creation is
Every where Kosher

In other words
Space Time is both
The chicken and
The egg of everything that
We see all around us

For as the Psalmist says
“For Thou art with me
Thy rod and Thy staff
Comforts me
And I shall dwell
In the house of the Lord

And let us say

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Angels With Dirty Faces

I am in my office now
Looking at the
Photo montage
Of my grandsons
(Peyton and Samuel)
That my daughter
 Recently sent to me
As a keepsake

She gave the
Photo montage
A title
“Eating Is Messy Business!”
And the pictures
Show the boys
With food smeared
All over their faces
They are
“My little angels
With dirty faces!”

To me
The pictures are funny
Because my two
Tow headed boys
Are looking like a pair
Of circus clowns
With strawberry jam
Smeared all over
Their smiling punims

During a recent visit
To Charlotte NC
I sat next to the boys
As they dined
On various foods
For breakfast and
Lunch and dinner

And at every meal
The food was
Flying off
In every direction
As if who could throw
The most food
Would be the winner!

It is not recommended
To sit too close by
This pair if you
Are wearing your
Best clothes or
That cannot be
Dry cleaned

But if you can’t
Make a colossal mess
When you are aged
Two and four
When else will you
Get the chance
To act out your inner
Bruce Springsteen?

Whenever I need a lift
In my mood
As my energy levels
Wane and plummet
In the course of the
Work day
All I have to do
To lift my
Flagging spirits
Is to turn my head
To see the pictures
Of my two
Special  boys
In their hey day

Smiling and laughing
“My angels with dirty faces”
As they are going
Through their paces
And instantly I can feel
A smile
(My smile!)
As it slowly
Creeps across my
Puss’ crevices

I hope this will
Always be the case
(As the boys continue
To grow
And as they become
Cultured and
Civilized and
Learn to eat
Like the proper
Little gentlemen
That they are sure to be)

Because to
Tell the truth
It ain’t much fun
To be
All on my own
With no one else
To play
“Let’s be a barbarian!”
With me
Or without me!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Score One For The Home Team

Kurt Vonnegut is one
Of my all time
Favorite authors

I like all of his books
But I am particularly fond
Of Slaughter-House Five

I especially identify
With the main
Character in the book
Who is named
Billy Pilgrim

As all of us
Who are familiar
With the book
Already know that
Billy Pilgrim
Has a very
Special problem
As described by
Vonnegut his creator

From time to time
For reasons unknown
Billy can suddenly become
 “Unstuck in time”

In other words
He can become
A time traveler
And he can
Pretty much
Willy nilly
Revisit past moments
Of his entire life

He can even visit
His own future life
And by means of
A yogic technique known as
Astral travel
He can also travel
To very distant planets
To commune with other
Worldly civilizations
Especially the planet of

What Vonnegut
Did not realize
Is that this ability
To get “unstuck in time”
Can be contagious

Should an individual
Such as myself
(I suppose who just
happens to possess
A peculiar kind
Of  genetic defect
That might make one
Predisposed to contracting
Billy Pilgrim’s illness)
Happen to read a copy
Of  Slaughter-House Five
It is entirely possible
 That such an individual
Can in fact
 Actually contract
“Billy Pilgrim Disease”
Also known as
“Tralfamadorian Syndrome”

Truth be told
I am such a person and
I have contracted
Billy Pilgrim disease!
(After many readings and
Re-readings of
Slaughter-House Five!)

Just like Billy Pilgrim
I too have
“Tralfamadorian Syndrome”
And now
Again just like Billy Pilgrim
I too can become
“Unstuck in time”

I too can revisit
And relive
The past moments
Of my previous life
(And even  past moments
In previous lives
That I have lived and
That are still being lived
In alternative dimensions!
Move over Shirley MacClaine!)

Now ain’t that
A kick in the head?
(Stay tuned for
More such
Adventurous poems
To follow!)

Thank you
Kurt Vonnegut and
Thank you again
(I think)
For having had the genius
To have been able
To produce such
A masterpiece as
Slaughter House Five
In the first place!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hiking Alone In The Woods

While I was hiking
In the woods
On a snowy
Winter’s night
I just happened
To cross paths
With  a small
Brown eyed fawn
Paralyzed with

She had
Stopped dead
In her tracks
To stare at me
With baited breath
As if to determine
If I were a
Friend or foe or
Perhaps some
Harbinger of death

We stayed like that
Some minutes longer
Eyeing each other
From afar  
“I’ll just stay over here”
She seemed to be saying
“You just stay
Where you are!”

And then
In the bat of an eye
She was gone

So much for my
One brief encounter
With a fawn

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Today especially
But not just today
I am feeling
Like a proper
Wanker right now
Which is just
Another way
Of saying that
I am feeling
Very poorly

 I am fairly certain
It is my diabetes
Acting up on me
Diabetes and
A whole slew of
Other things too
A proper stew of
Miseries almost
Too numerous to mention

Though I somehow managed
To drag myself to work today
I keep wanting to
Fall off of my chair
And to just
Lay down on the ground
To just curl up
So that I can take a proper

I’ve already
Used up my supply of
And now I‘ve got to go out
And score some more

I am planning to do it
Today or tomorrow
As soon as I can cop
Some more money

I do not know
For certain
If insulin
Is addictive or not
But it sure does
Feel like it is

I’ve got to stop
Writing now because
I am feeling just
Too punk to

Some time later
Same day

(After I’ve washed my face
With cold water and
Tried to catch some sleep
At my desk)

These days
I make sure to
Write things down
On my shopping list
To remind myself to buy
Stuff that I really need
But that I  always
Seem to suddenly forget
By the time
I get myself to the store

This time
I need to make sure
To buy some Aleve
At the RiteAid
Today or tomorrow
To assuage the shooting pains
In my neuropathized (sp?) legs

And now that I
Come to think of it
I’m also really sick
And tired of having
To walk past
The HQ for the
Philadelphia Catholic Diocese
On my way to
Family Court
And being forced to see
Still hanging on his cross
After all of these years

He really doesn’t look
Very well at all
With his crown of thorns and
Lintel cloth covering his groin
His arms look so tired
Aching to be let loose
He looks like I feel

I am thinking that
He needs to be allowed
To get some sleep
He needs to be allowed
To get some rest
He needs to be allowed
To dream of better days
To come

Maybe one of these days
I will come back
With a hammer and chisel
And I will set him free

I am sure that
The newspapers would
Call such an act
An act of
Wanton vandalism

Not me
I would rather call it
A wanton an act of
I would rather call it
A wanton act of

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pandora's Box

I can smell it from here
The rarest of fragrances
The musk of it
The skunk of it
The patchouli of it
Hanging like
Dripping honey
In the spring time air

I believe they call it

The medical texts define
Pheromones as
An agent secreted
By an individual
That produces
A change
In the sexual or
Social behavior of
Another individual
Of the same species
A volatile hormone
That acts as a

I can see her now
Leaning over the railing
Of the Brooklyn Heights
As her flowing blond hair
Cascades down from the
Exposed nape of her
Gracefully arched neck
While the hem line of her
Loosely clinging skirt
Is gently lifted
By the invisible hand
Of a passing summer breeze
Revealing in a flash
The pink hewed flesh
Of her neck and thigh
The exposed battlefields
Where are fought
The many unending
Wars of desire

The sun is setting now
Between the gothic spires of
The Brooklyn Bridge
As the first lights of
Manhattan begin to blink on
Like a thousand diamond
Necklaces reflecting
In the sparkling
East River waters
The multi textured
Hews of the setting
Red sun

All around us
Mothers and fathers are
Proudly pushing baby prams
As they strut and
Preen their feathers
During one last leisurely walk
Before the need to hurry home
To fix dinners and
Bathe babies
Before tucking them
Into their beds

All around us
Buzzing like a thousand
Bumble bees
The pheromones
Carry their honey laden
Sticky dew drops
Of honey suckle
And pomegranate
Into the open pores
Of a thousand
Who will suddenly
Find themselves
An irresistible urge
To get closer
And closer still

As close as
They possibly can
To the ebony source
Of all known
Pleasure and pain

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gung Ho For Fung Shui

What gives with this
 Fung Shui anyway?

Fung Shui
Is understanding
The flow of Chi
The hidden life breath
That permeates
The environment

When energies are
In disarray
Rule the day

All of the energies in
Your personal space are
In a constant state of flux
Yin and Yang energies
Dance together
Striving for the balance
That brings harmony

Yin is coolness

Yang is hot
Full of life

Confucius says:
Keep Yin and Yang
In harmony
Within your home and
You will enjoy
Good luck

Some days
My Fung Shui
Is so out of whack
That it is all
That I can do
Just to get out
Of my own way

And then
There are days
When my Yin
Is barely on
Speaking terms
With my Yang

When this happens
I feel helpless
I feel blocked
Unable to navigate

I get stuck in time
Frozen in space
Stuck to the same place
For what seems like
Hours at a time
Unable to move

I feel like a pawn
Stuck on a chessboard
Unable to make a move
Until a force
Greater than myself
Can lift me up
And carry me
The barriers of
Electro Magnetism

You might say that
I am having a really bad
Hair day
And you would be correct

What gives with this Fung Shui

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On Top Of Old Smokey

On top of Old Smokey 
All covered with snow, 
I lost my true lover 
For a-courting too slow.

It is Friday afternoon and
I am hard at work in my
Two sizes too small
Day dreaming
About the upcoming

I took yesterday off
As a personal leave day
Because I was
Just too bone tired to
Drag my ass
Out of bed
On a wet and cold
Rainy December morning
The spirit was willing but
The flesh wanted desperately
To grab just
A few more hours
Of stolen sleep

At this stage of the game
If I am not now
Entitled to even
A tiny bit of self indulgence
Then when?

Rolling over to find
The sweet side
Of my pillow
I granted myself
My ever so
Self indulgent wish

After all I am due
To retire from work
In about a year’s
Time from now
And ain’t I a man?

Truth be told
I am completely
At a loss as to how
I am going to live
Post retirement
When every day will be a
Personal leave day
That is
If I should actually
Be so lucky
As to live long enough
To be able to actually retire

I have had
Three close friends
And coworkers of mine
Who all passed away
During the previous year
None of whom were retired

It is a sobering thought
To think
That life can be
So very fleeting
And short
And brutal

This coming Monday
I have a routine
Doctor’s appointment
To monitor my type 2 diabetes
And my too high blood pressure
And my  too high cholesterol

I expect to hear the usual
Admonitions from
My overly zealous
(to my way of thinking)
As he chews me out
For not taking better
Care of myself
(I suppose I should be
More grateful)

I will nod and smile
As he chatters on
Whilst writing
His cryptic notes
Into my medical chart
As he writes out the
Prescription renewals
For all of my hitherto
Enumerated ailments

He will take my blood pressure
While clucking his tongue and
Shaking his head in disapproval
And  he will tell me
To be more diligent
In monitoring my
A1C count
And he will make referrals for
For this expert and that
Just to be on the safe side
Or to see if there is
Cause for more concern
Or not
I will thank him
Whether I intend to
Following his suggestions
Or not

I acknowledge that I am
A difficult patient
(as all my doctors tell me)
But I am doing
The best that I can
Under the circumstances

I dislike not being fully fit
I dislike being overweight
(The medical term is morbidly obese!)
I dislike having to stick
Pins into my finger tips every day
In order to
Draw a few
Drops of blood
To measure my
Levels of glucose

And so I rebel
From time to time
And if that makes me into
A difficult patient
I heartily concur!

After all it is
My fingers that feel
Like pin cushions
Not theirs!
And if I am reluctant
To keep sticking them
For more blood samples
In order to get back into
Their good graces
Then so be it!

All of which
Brings us to
Last Monday when
During my usual
Home bound commute
I crossed paths with an angel
A woman of such
Startling beauty and
Statuesque bearing
That she literally
Took my breath away

As is my usual custom
My eyes drank in her profile and
Her long torso and  long legs
As my mind’s eye lovingly
Glided over the lines
Of her shapely silhouette and
The graceful flutterings
Of her hands and arms
As she pushed back her hair
And as she pursed her lips
In her hand held pocket mirror
And as she glanced back at me
As she smiled her
Madonna -like smile

Before you could say
Jackie Robinson or
Grand Central Station
I was hooked

I had fallen like the
Proverbial ton of bricks
(As I almost always
Usually do
If I fall at all)

I could feel
My desire for her
Surging through my veins
Until I could feel
My heart pounding
In my chest
And I could
Hear the blood
Sloshing in my ears
Like the wind blown surf

My heart was beating
Like the drum section
On the rolling stones
Hit tune
I’m So Hot For Her

(I’m so hot for her
I’m so hot for her
I’m so hot for her
And she’s so cold!)

I could tell that
She was aware of
My staring as
She tossed
Come hither look
In my direction
As she smiled
That tight little smile
That all women
Seem to know
How to smile
From birth
(Or was it just
Wishful thinking
On my part
Or was it
Just my over active
Running away with me
Yet once again
One more time?)

Why is it that
All women seem to
Have this amazing ability
To know when
They are being ogled by men
Yet they act
So non chalant
Appearing to be completely
Distracted by their own
Musings and thoughts
All the while
Smiling that tight little smile
That seems to say
Yes, perhaps I am available
But, on the other hand
No, perhaps not

It is enough
To drive us men wild
(And it usually does!)

I was trying
With all of my might
To summon up
Enough courage
To ask her
For her telephone digits
When the train door
Suddenly opened
And in the blink
Of an eye
She was gone

In a Philadelphia second
My goddess had become
A shadowy figure
Into the foggy
Moonlit night

And just as quickly
All of my heretofore
All consuming
Surge of lust had
Just as suddenly
As rapidly
As it had at
First appeared
And I was back to normal
Which is to say
That I was
Back to being
My usual boring and
Humdrum self

And if all of that
Wasn’t discouraging enough
I also felt very
Foolish and
And spent
Like the foolish old man
That I have become

A foolish old man
Who still lusts
From time to time
After all of  the
Young and beautiful
Ladies of Frankford
And Kensington
Whom I just
Happen to  have
The good fortune
To encounter nightly
During my
Homebound commute

As I catch a fleeting glance
Of my own reflection
In the pane glass of
My passenger side window
I can see that
I have become
Something of a parody of the
Dirty old man of
Laugh-in fame
Who would chase eagerly after
All of the younger girls
In his path
Whilst moving
Ever so slowly
With outstretched hands
At full stutter step
As unable to catch up
With his loping prey
As a chipmunk might be
In pursuit of a fleeing gazelle

And just what then
Would the chipmunk do
If he ever did manage
To catch-up with
The object
Of his affection?

Have I really become
All that
Laughable and
(Don’t look now Batman
But I have the whim wams
All over!)

On top of Old Smokey
All covered with snow,
I lost my true lover
For a- courting too slow.

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

And Her Name Is Gloria!

And her name is Glor-ia!
And her name is Glor-ia!
And her name is Glor-ia!
Lyrics by
Van Morrison

Gloria is the name of my
Now deceased sister
She was always my older sister
And the oldest of four children

Everything that I have become today
I owe to her
She was always my big sister
Some twenty years my senior
(It’s a long story
Details to follow)
She was my protector
My nanny and
My role model of
What the
The ideal woman
Should be like

We all called her Goldie
And that is what she was
Pure gold!
She was always
The gold standard
By which we measured
Our own lives
And she always expected
The rest of us slackers
To reach for the gold ring
At all times
No excuses
No backsliding
No quitting allowed!

And there was
Never any quit
In her
She was smart
And eminently
At all times

She was our Betty Crocker
And our very own
Our Miss Brooks
All rolled up into one

Had she been born
Into a wealthier family
She could have been
A doctor or
A lawyer or
Secretary of State
But fate had dealt her a
Cruel hand
And she was born
Into the same poverty stricken family
That made getting ahead
An uphill climb
Of Mount Everest proportions
For all of us

When Goldie married
She married for love

She was a war time bride
Her husband
(Let’s just call him Larry for now)
Was an expat from England
Who had just gone AWOL
From the English navy
The very night that
He and my sister
First met

Larry had impulsively jumped ship
After his Frigate had
Pulled into the
Brooklyn Navy Yard
For emergency repairs
(After having been
Torpedoed by Nazi u-boats
While escorting convoys
Across the Atlantic)

Prior to his dangerous escapade
Larry had made a solemn vow
That if he were ever lucky enough
To make it to land again
(After all the narrow escapes
That he had been through)
That he would jump ship
And quit the goddamn war
Once and for all

He was very well aware
That he was breaking the law
But he figured
That it was better for him
To live the life of a fugitive
Constantly on the run
And forced to keep
Looking over his shoulder
For the long arm of the law and
The British admiralty
Than to become a dead hero
Sent to a watery grave
Like so many of
His erstwhile comrades
Who were buried at sea
At the ripe old age of twenty one

Larry figured that
He had already done his share
For the allied war effort

He figured
That he had already
Paid his dues
For God and Country
Hadn’t he been torpedoed
On three different ships and
Only narrowly escaped drowning
After each attack
By the skin of his teeth?

After being fished out of the sea
For the third time
He had decided that
Enough is enough!
Come hell or high water
He was determined
To make a new life for himself
In the USA
Rather than shipping back
To England
To once again have to
Run the gauntlet
Of  Nazi u-boats
Who were always
Laying in wait
Prowling the Atlantic
In so-called wolf packs
In search of convoys to sink

And they were succeeding too
Locked in a deadly race
To sink as many of the so-called
Allied Liberty ships as they could
Faster than the American ship yards
Could build them

Larry was determined
That one way or another
He was going to find a way
To survive the war

When he finally
Got his chance
He was as good as his word
Jumping ship as soon
As his wounded boat
Had limped into port

Not knowing
Where else to go
He ended up at a USO club
For service men on shore leave
In Coney Island
And there he met my sister Goldie
Who was working as a volunteer

After a few dances
And a few more beers
Larry confessed to her his plight
Recounting his now legendary tale
Of how he had jumped overboard
The first chance he got
And how he
Was now facing a court martial
Or worse
If he ever returned
To his ship

Theirs was a romance
Right out of war time Hollywood

The upshot of this
Whirlwind drama was that
Gloria ended up bringing
Her new found beau home
To meet her
Suitably stunned
Mom and dad
Who evidently
Were suckers
For a hard luck case
Because they allowed
AWOL Larry
To stay with them
In their six room
Tenement flat

They could see that Gloria
Was ga ga for her new friend
And it didn’t hurt that
Larry was a handsome devil
Who looked like he came
Right out of Hollywood’s
Central casting
With wavy blond hair and
Sparkling baby blue eyes
(And did I mention that he also
Happened to be Jewish?)

I suppose
That mom and dad figured
Que sera sera
(A favorite family motto)
What was one more mouth to feed
Under such war time circumstances?

After all
Life was hard everywhere
Especially in shanty towns like
Coney Island
Like I said
They must have been suckers for a
Hard luck case
(Not surprising since
They were hard luck cases themselves
I suppose it takes one
To know one)

To make a long story short
Larry and Goldie got married
And had two bouncing
Baby girls
(My younger and older nieces)

The law
Never did catch up with Larry
(Though not for lack of trying)
Many was the time
The family had to quickly
Pull up stakes
And head for places unknown
To keep one step ahead of the
Various law enforcement agencies
That were more or less
Always hot on our heels

But as luck would have it
Larry and Goldie always managed
To get away
Just in the nick of time

And that
As we Feldman’s
Like to say
Is our family’s
Very own version
Of the story of
Bonnie and Clyde

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

How I Envied Them

How I envied them
Those men
Those conquering heroes
Who came home
With their minds
And bodies
Still intact

They came home
To a hero’s welcome
To parades down main street
To hugs and kisses
From loved ones
Left behind
When the sirens
Of war
Were sounding
And the greatest generation
Answered the call

They came home
(The lucky ones)
With all of their
Moxie and swagger
Still intact

They showed up at
Still in uniform
Duffle bags on their shoulders
With their battle ribbons
Across their chests

For the most part
They seemed to be the same
At first glance
Hardly changed at all
And yet
They were somehow different
More battle hardened
More battle scarred
Sadder and wiser
At the same time
With the sound of
Bursting bombs
And machine gun fire
Still ringing in their ears

Any sudden loud noise
Could make them
Suddenly flinch
As if by instinct

A firecracker
Thrown in celebration
At one of the many
Welcome home parades
Or a jalopy’s backfire
Could make them
Suddenly skittish
And jumpy

The sound of footsteps
Approaching them
From behind
Would instinctively
Make them flinch
And tighten up
As if they were
Suddenly transported
Back to the combat zones
From which they had
Just departed
Back into the Jap
And malaria infested jungles
Of the south pacific or
Back into the frozen fox holes at
The battle of the bulge

They had defeated
Hitler and Tojo
But not before
They had seen
The bodies of
Some of their best buddies
Blown apart
Right before their eyes

They had served on
Bombers and in
Submarines and
On battleships and
Aircraft carriers and
They had faced the enemy
In tanks
And in the trenches
Of battlefields in
Every corner of the world
And they had
Defeated their enemies

And now
The soldiers and sailors and
Airmen had come home
(The lucky ones)
And their war was over
And now the challenge
Was to make a life
For themselves
And for their families
In a peace time America
That was rich and powerful
And poised for greater
Achievements yet to come

Their victory
Though glorious
Had come
At a terrible cost
In human life
As thousands of
America’s fallen
Had to be left behind
Buried in a hundred different
Foreign battlefields
With crosses and stars of david
Stretching as far as the eye
Can see
This was the price
That had to be paid
The butcher’s bill
The price of victory

Philadelphia, pa. 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How It Usually Works

This is how it goes
This is how it works

For the most part
Before I decide to do
Anything important
I do try to consult my head
I do try to act without emotion
I do try to avoid acting with
Undo haste
And for the most part
This method has served me well

But I also tend to consult
My heart for advice
And if my heart should
Happen to say
That something ain’t right
I usually tend to listen

But then if my head starts to
Insist that the thing is right
And my head and my heart
Get into a big fist fight
Then I usually defer to what
My heart is saying
For better or worse
(Mostly for the worse)

Sometimes my head
Wins the contest
With logic
And by providing
Solid information and facts
To back up
Well presented arguments

Then I consult my heart
And my heart
Has always been known
To be rather untamed
And rather unruly
And for the most part
Poorly disciplined

My heart is famous
For making some
Very infamously
Poor decisions

My heart is sadly
Inclined towards
Laziness and
Self indulgence

It does me
Very little good
To have to keep
Reminding myself
That my imperfect
Though well meaning
Has a very poor
Track record
When it comes to making
Good decisions
Au contraire mon frere
Au contraire

If anything
My heart is
Notoriously unreliable
And prone towards making
The most egregious of mistakes

Yet though I have had
To learn most of everything
The hard way
At the proverbial school
Of hard knocks
My heart
Refuses to yield
To mere logic
As the saying goes
Please do not confuse me
With the facts!

So I pamper my heart
And I indulge my heart
Despite the growing
Toll of car wrecks
That I have had to crawl
Away from
Due to my heart’s
Pathetic record of
DUI arrests

My head
My logic
My sobriety
Has always taken a
Back seat
To the endless
Whininess of my
Willy nilly
Achy breaky

I have always thought
That as I aged
And as I grew older
That I would also become
Wiser and more mature
With each passing year

I have always thought
That the situation
Might change
As they years passed
That I would become
More thoughtful
More deliberative and
A bit more cautious
That has not proven
To be the case

I will be celebrating
My 65th birthday
And after lo these many years
As my hair has turned from
Dark brown to charcoal grey
And then to snowy white

About all that there’s
Still left to say is that
(Despite my very best efforts)
There’s just
Not very much
About me that
Has actually
Substantially or


Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How The Dead Must Laugh

How the dead
Must laugh at us
At we who are still
Temporarily alive

We must be
An endless
Source of
Knee-slapping mirth
To the specters
And ghosts
And ghouls
Who are everywhere
Around us
At all times
In all places

How they must laugh
At our endless strivings
For perfection
At our desperate need
To fulfill all of our
Desperate needs

Our need
To be beautiful
And thin
And athletic

Our need
To be graceful under pressure
Our need to achieve
Great things
To write great books and
Brilliant poems
To paint masterpiece
To carve exquisite sculptures
That may someday
Be hung and displayed
(The jealous gods permitting)
In the Metropolitan
And in the Louvre
Museums of Art

How the hitherto deceased
Must howl with glee
At our pathetic efforts
To master
Some trade
Some science
Some sport
Some art or
Some romantic relationship
So that we can hopefully
Manage to make a name
For ourselves and
Our posterity
In the futile
Yet ever so desperate
That our names and reputations
Will not be blotted out
In the annals of

Do we not all
Want to live forever
Do we not all go
To every extreme
To seek out
This cure and that
For every ailment
Every disease
Real or imagined
Every physical and
Mental complaint
That has every
Afflicted mortal

Who among us
Has not tried to scale
The Mount Olympus
The Mount Everest
Of obstacles and failures
That have prevented us from
Achieving our goal of
Eternal youth

Are we not all
Just cheap imitation
Ponce de Leons
In search of the
Holy Fountain of Youth

We who are still
Alive and kicking
Must really
Be good for a laugh
For a hoot and a holler
For when things sometimes
Get dull
As I suspect
They must
During the ho hum lives
Of the eternally doomed
Yet ever so grateful

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ode to Kris Kringle

T’was the night
Before Christmas
And this one is
Sitting in his usual place
At the Margaret and Orthodox
Bus terminal

He looks just like a
Filthy rag clothed
Kris Kringle

He sits in the same spot
Every night

No one ever wants
To sit next to him because
He reeks of shit and urine
So he usually has the bench
All to himself

If you ever did dare
To sit next to him
Your eyes would instantly
Begin to tear and water
As if someone
Was peeling onions
Right next to you

Ol’ homeless Kris Kringle
Usually doesn’t bother anyone
To be fair
I have never heard him
Beg for loose change or for food

Between his rag wrapped legs
He has a broken down
Shopping cart
That carries all of his
Earthly treasures
And possessions
Including a
Dachshund puppy

The puppy lays curled up
In a ball
At the bottom of the cart

It is the plight of the dog
That catches most people’s attention

Almost every one
Seems to like dogs
Especially little puppies

But this puppy does not bark
In fact he barely moves at all
He just peers through the bars
Of his shopping cart prison
With those supplicating eyes
That seem to beg
Every passerby he sees
For help

The plight of the homeless man
Seems to go unnoticed
The man receives little sympathy
In fact the opposite is true
Mostly people accuse him of
Animal cruelty
And some threaten to call the police
Or the animal protection people
But none actually do
Including me

After all
We all have a bus to catch
With families to feed
And pets of our own
To take care of

I guess
Ol’ Kris Kringle and his
Cute little puppy dog
Will just have to go on
Fending for themselves
For a little while longer

But I heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight
Happy Christmas to all
And to all a good night!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Blood on the Tracks

It’s a wonder
That we can
Even feed ourselves-
Lyrics by Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks

I should be a really
Good poker player
By now
(Having had to play
The hand that fate
Has dealt me
Lo these many years)
But sadly
I am not
(A good poker player that is)
Mostly because
I have never really
Learned how to bluff successfully
Or how to hold my thoughts and
In abeyance
Long enough to develop
What is known
In poker playing circles
As putting on one’s
Poker face

People usually can see
Right through me
I have long been faulted
For the sin
Of wearing my heart
On my sleeve
It is not because
I am free from sin
(Far from it)
But rather more likely
I have never really seen
The advantage
Of living a life
That is all built
On a foundation of
Though I have been told
That the benefits of living
Such a life of
In this modern
Day and age
Is not only
Beneficial and
To preserving
One’s sense of privacy
(Not to mention sanity)
It is absolutely essential
If one is desirous of
Trying to preserve both

On my way home from
Work the other night
I was verbally accosted
By the
Homeless man
Who has more or less
Taken up permanent residence
On the row of park benches
Directly across from
The entrance
To the office building
Where I work

As I was walking
Past him
While I was
Trying to make haste
Enough to catch my
Soon to arrive
Bus ride home
I could hear the man
Curse and spit at me

He was speaking
Sotto voce
Although loud enough
For me to hear

White ass bitch!
He said
White ass bitch!

Perhaps he thought
He was back in
Lock down
In Holden or
And I was just
Another inmate
Who happened to
Come too close
To his claimed
Part of the exercise yard

He did not like
My attitude
Or the cut of
My jib
Or how I walked
Or talked

Or perhaps he just hated
Everyone and
Every thing
That was not a part
Of his delusional
And extremely
Circumspect and myopic
View of the world

How could he hate me?
He didn’t even know me!

And yet he seemed
To hate everything
About me

About me
And about the entire
And sheltered
That he perhaps thought
I had some how
Come to represent

I could feel
His hostility and
His hatred and
His contempt

White ass bitch!
White ass bitch!

His words hit me
Like a punch
In the face

I felt hurt
I felt angry
I felt humiliated
All at the same time

I wanted to lash back
I wanted to call the cops
I wanted to set him on fire!

But most of all
I just wanted
To slink away
To swallow my pride
To pretend that
I had not even heard
What he had to say

I stiffened
But I kept on going

After all I had
A bus ride to catch
So that I could
Escape homeless
People like him
Him and his
Whole homeless
Nightmarish world

So that I could
Leave him behind
And get on with
The rest of my
Mostly scripted
And yes
Way of life

I boarded the bus
And looked back
At the figure
In the shadows
Whose words
Still haunted me
White ass bitch!

I told myself that
I was being silly
That I should not have cared
As much as I obviously did
After all
The man is probably
Just crazy
And his words
The words of a
Crazy man

But I did care

I felt stung
As if I had been
Bitten by a bee

But most of all
I was surprised

At myself
And surprised at the
Kaleidoscope of
Emotional reactions
That I was still feeling

What if he had pulled
A gun
Or a knife?
What if I had been
Shot or stabbed?
What if?
What if?

What if our roles
Had been reversed?
What if I had been born him
Or if he had been born as me?
What if the shoe
Had been put on
The other proverbial foot?

Yes, yes
I know only too well
The meaning
Of the parable that
That there but for
The grace of God

Given all of that
Why was I still so
Surprised and upset
By how very much
His hateful words
Had hit home?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

So This is Christmas

(In memory of the 31st anniversary
of the death of John Lennon)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
So this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young-

So This Is Christmas (War is Over)
Lyrics by John Lennon

Most people think
That John Lennon’s
Mark David Chapman
Only shot the famed singer
Once in the head
Not so
In fact
Chapman shot Lennon
Four times
From behind
In the back
(Like all acts of cowardice)
But never just once
And not even once
In the head
Which is very odd
Considering that Chapman
Fired his gun
At point blank range

Or perhaps Chapman
Was just a poor marksman
Or perhaps
He didn’t want to spoil
John Lennon’s head
The source of all his music
Which brought so much
Pleasure and joy
To so many millions
Of his fans

I only mention this fact
Because this coming
Dec. 8th
Will mark the
The 31st Anniversary
Of John Lennon’s death
And I am very sorry
Mark David Chapman
Saw fit to shoot John
At all
In the first place

Chapman has been
Denied parole
At least six times so far
Having pleaded guilty
To second degree
He is now serving
His sentence of
Twenty years to life

Twenty years to life
For the crime of
Second degree manslaughter
Chapman saved the DA
A lengthy jury trial
By copping the manslaughter plea

Perhaps Chapman
Still harbors dreams
Of one day being paroled
So that he can once again
Walk the streets
As a free man
While Listening
To Beatle records
On his very own Ipod

Perhaps he sees himself
Visiting the Strawberries Fields
Central Park Memorial
To pay his respects
To the man
He once professed to
Love and admire
Before deciding
To shoot him
Four times
In the back
From behind

I only mention this
Because it is once
Again the
Christmas season
And John Lennon
Is still dead
And we
The living
The survivors
All still miss him
Very very much

I only mention this
Because it is once
Again the Christmas season
Which brings back
Memories of years past
When John Lennon was still
One of us
Still walking among us
And still making the wonderful
That we all loved so much

And we all wish
With all of our hearts
That on that dreadful
And fateful
December day
Thirty one years ago
That Mark David Chapman
Had not done
What he did

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting for the Return of Normal

Of late
Things in the good ol
Have been so abnormal
For so long
That the very idea
Of a return to what
Warren G. Harding
Once called
A return to Normalcy
May be all
But impossible
That such an outcome
Is even desirable

Normal for me
Means being able to
Always have
A roof over my head
I am not a big fan
Of having to sleep
In the streets or at some
Homeless shelter

Normal for me is having
Enough money to provide for
Three meals a day
And wholesome food at that
Not just high fat
High calorie
High cholesterol
Fast food franchise food
That has brought us the multiple
Plagues of heart disease
Obesity and

For me to feel normal
I also require
Some new clothes
Now and again and
Access to competent
Health care and to
Variable means of
As needed

Not a whole lot to ask for
In the grand scheme
Of things
During this time of
Lowered expectations

All around me
I see the signs
Of people and things
Breaking down
And it bothers me

I hate to see people
Having to suffer
Just because
The economy
Goes south
And good paying jobs
Seem to dry up
Like dry ice on
A hot summer’s day

I agree completely
With the lyrics of
The saying that goes
I’ve been rich
And I’ve been poor
And believe me
Rich is better

Chronic poverty
Is not only physically and
Emotionally debilitating
It can be and often is
Especially to the most
Vulnerable among us
Especially to children

Is it acceptable
That in the year 2011
The USA ranks
41st in infant mortality
Out of 45 industrialized countries
On a par with Qatar and Croatia?

Today is the 48th anniversary
Of the assassination of President
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

The day is grey and
And a heavy rain has been
Falling all morning
And is expected to last
Until tomorrow

President Kennedy’s
Inaugural address is
Most memorable for the phrase
Ask not what your country can do for you
But rather ask what you can do for your country

Those words were never
More apropos than
They are today

America is waiting
For a return to Normalcy

There is an African proverb that says
That when the elephants fight
It is the grass that gets trampled

While the elephants
Continue to fight
The rest of
America is waiting

The clock is ticking
And time is running out

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Zen and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance

I just don’t know
What gets into me

Most recently
I got it into my head
To buy a new bicycle

Maybe I was
Just trying to remember
Trying to recapture
A happier time
A time
Way back when
When I was a kid
And owning my own bike
Made me feel
Like I was the king
Of the world

I loved my old bike
And I lavished it
With loving care
Day in and
Day out

I loved the trips
To the bike shop
In Sheepshead Bay
I relished the smell
Of all that new rubber
The sight of all those
Shiny brand new bikes
Stacked on the racks
Waiting for some
Lucky kid to own them

For me
And for a lot of kids my age
The bike shop
Was our private and
Privileged domain
It was where
We spent
All of our saved up pennies
On bike accessories
Like new mirrors and
New reflectors and
Colorful handle bar streamers and
Flashing lights
And bells and whistles
And on lots of new chrome fenders
And on gizmos and gadgets
Of every size, shape and variety
All in the name of
Trying to make our bikes
A bit more
A bit more
Fancy and
A tad more beautiful

My bike
Was my very own pony
My very own
Painted palomino
My bike gave me
A sense of freedom
It made me feel grown up
It gave me control
Of my own destiny
I knew that I could go as far
And ride for as long
As my legs could carry me
Or until it got too dark to see

When I rode my bike
I could feel the wind
In my hair and
I loved to feel
The rain pellets
Stinging my face
I never felt
More alive
Or more energized
Than when I was
Riding my bike
At break neck speed
Down the bike trail
That followed
Ocean Parkway
From Prospect Park
Straight as the crow flies
All the way
To the Mecca of
The boardwalk at
Brighton Beach

Beep beep
Honk honk
Get out of my way
You miserable pedestrians
Make way you flock of pigeons
I defy your
Rain filled puddles
I defy your
Neat piles of freshly raked leaves
(Those piles weren’t nearly so neat
After I got through with them!)

Like an hombre
Like a cowboy
Like a dude
I would park my bike
Outside the knish store
On Coney Island Avenue
Under the shadows
Of the Brighton Beach El
Where the trolley cars once rolled
(Before GM put them out of business
In favor of smoke belching
Pollution spewing
Diesel fueled buses
All manufactured by GM
Of course)

I want to ride my new bike
(Or at least take it for a long walk
Now and again)
Because I need the exercise
And because
I want to have
My old friend and companion back
To listen to the click, click, click
Of the synchronized gears
To retrace the footsteps
Of my lost youth

I want to once again
Go strolling along
(Or, God willing)
Riding along
At a leisurely pace
Along paths of my own choosing
To be able to once again
Get lost in a world of
My own daydreams and of
My own musings
Oblivious to the pressures of time
Oblivious to the long list
Of tasks and projects
That I have yet to do

Call me foolish
Say that I am
Regressing back
To the days of my childhood
That there is no way to
Recapture the lost innocence
Of days gone by

You’ll get no argument from me
It may all be true

Just be careful
When next you go out
Of your house
To do your daily chores
Or to take your daily stroll
That bicycle bell
You hear
Ringing loudly behind you
So rudely urging you
To get out of the rider’s way
May just be
This foolish old man
On his shiny new bike
Tying to recapture
The best halcyon days
Of his preciously lived
Yet mostly
Misspent youth

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Beautiful and Magnificent Theory of Everything

I was watching TV
The other night
When I came across
A program on NOVA
Marvelously entitled
The Theory of Everything
That purported to explain
The mystery of
String Theory
In layman's terms
Of course
I was intrigued

String Theory
In case you do not know
Just happens to be
The underlying theory
Of Quantum physics
That purports to explain
How the laws of Nature
Operate on the sub-atomic level

This is the theory that
So eluded Albert Einstein
As he pursued his great dream
Of finding a unified theory of everything
One set of beautiful and elegant
Mathematical equations that would
Ultimately explain the natural world as
We all perceive it to be

Albert Einstein
Passed away
Before he could
Figure it all out
But fortunately
For the rest of us
Two dedicated scientists
Named John Schwarz and Joel Scherk
(Standing,to be sure
On the giant shoulders of
Scores of other forerunner scholars
Too numerous to mention here)
Came to Einstein’s rescue
By proving the validity of
String Theory as the ultimate
Explanation for how matter
Behaves at the sub-atomic level

As if this achievement wasn’t enough
Messieurs Schwarz and Scherk
Were able to solve
The mathematical equations
To prove that String Theory
Really did have legs

I do not pretend to understand it all
But I sure can appreciate
The underlying beauty and logic
Of it all
One beautiful and elegant
Theory of Everything

Some skeptics continue to say
So what?
What earthly good does it do
For humans to understand
How to marry
Relativity with Quantum physics
Even if the grand theory
Proposed by Schwarz and Scherk
Can ultimately be proven
To be true?
And what about
God’s role in all of this?
Does the Theory of Everything
Prove once and for all
That God is dead?
Wasn’t it Stephen Hawkins
Himself who said that
All that was needed to replace God
Was the Theory of Gravity?

I do not see it that way
Rather than replacing God
I believe that
The Theory of Everything
Restores God to his rightful role as
The grand conductor
Of the great cosmic symphony
That is the underlying basis for the
Very existence of String Theory itself

I remember also
Two other great scientists
By the names of Dr. Carl Sagan
(Author of the book and
TV series Cosmos)
And Dr. Jacob Bronowski
(HBO’s host of the popular TV Series
Called The Ascent of Man)
Two wonderful public interpreters
Of the wonders of scientific discovery
Both of whom sadly died before
The Grand Theory of Everything
Could be considered to be
Proven scientifically
But how they would have loved it!

If there is any justice
Left in creation
Albert Einstein
Carl Sagan
And Jacob Bronowski
Must all have front row seats
To the greatest
Cosmic concert of all time
So as to enable them
And all of the rest of us
To finally be able to hear
With crystal clear clarity
What the great
Greek philosopher
Once called
The Magical Music of the Spheres

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

And Down Goes Frazier!

And Down Goes Frazier!
(RIP- Joe Frazier
1/12/1944 – 11/08/2011)

Smokin Joe Frazier
Beat Muhammad Ali
In the year 1975
In what was billed as
The Fight of the Century
In the fight they called
The Thrilla in Manila
It was a fight
That will long be seared
Into the memory
Of boxing history

For 15 rounds
Frazier and Ali
Battled each other
Nearly to the death
Trading punches
In a fever of fervor
That seemed unimaginable
Among heavyweights
Up until that time

At one time during the fight
Ali told Frazier
“They told me that Joe Frazier was through”
“They lied”, said Frazier,
Before hitting Ali with a
Devastating left hook

That night
Smokin Joe became
The Heavyweight Champion of the World
And a great one at that
Ali would say as much
After Frazier knocked him down
In the 15th round to become
The first man to beat Muhammad Ali

Smokin Joe’s reign
As heavyweight champion
Lasted only four fights
Before he ran into an
Even more fearsome slugger
Than himself
George Foreman

George Foreman
Responded to Frazier’s
Constant attack
By dropping him
To the canvas
Three times
In the first round
And three more times
In the second
Before their 1973
Fight in Jamaica
Was waved to a close

And then
Smokin Joe spent
The rest of his life
Trying to fight his way
Out of Ali’s shadow

Smokin Joe Frazier
Should always
Be remembered
As one of the
Greatest fighters
Of all time because
He never compromised
His good name
And he always gave
100 percent in the ring

Rest assured
Smokin Joe
That you will always
Be missed
Whether we ever
Get around to building you
Your well deserved statue
Or not

And Joe
If you ever get around
To reading this poem
Up there
In boxer’s Heaven
I sincerely hope
That it makes you smile

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yetta's Poem

You can’t really
Blame my sister Yetta
For wanting to make
Her life better

Like the rest of us
She was born
Into the same poverty
Stricken family
That literally did
Not have a pot
To piss in

Our family was always so poor
That Yetta could not afford
Any of the little luxuries of life
That a young girl needs and desires

The small things in life
Were denied to her
Things like new clothes
And a new pair of shoes or
A proper haircut
She had no jewelry box full of
Shining baubles or
Bits of costume jewelry
To offset her
Feminine side

So Yetta rebelled
Against the petty restrictions
And constrictions
That her sickly father
And old world mother
Could still impose

Her rebellion took the form
Of dating gentiles
During her teen years
Over the objections of her parents
And siblings
Not me
I was still in diapers
Being totally ignored
By my parents
Who would leave me
In my crib for hours
Until I started screaming
And banging my head
Against the wall
In a pitiful effort
To get a little attention

Yetta was desperate
To get away from the family
And from the family’s
Dour financial condition

One day
Yetta met the man of her dreams
While sunning herself
On the beach
He was Italian American
His name was Raymond
He was a Korean War veteran
From New York’s
Lower East side

Ray was a few years her senior
And he was smitten
With the young lady
Whose good looks
Reminded some of a young
Elizabeth Taylor
Good for Yetta
Good for Ray

When Yetta announced
That she and Raymond
Were to be married
The whole family
Went into a tizzy

So serious was the situation
That my older brother Irwin
Had to fly down to Miami
To see what he could do
To talk some sense into
His younger sister

Me and my older niece Carol
Were busy playing
In the motel court yard
When Carol looked up
And noticed
That her uncle Irwin
(Who was my older brother as well)
Had come for a surprise visit

Great I thought
Maybe he was also coming
To rescue me
From my motel court yard hell
I was glad to see him and
I rushed to greet him
But he just breezed on by
Not stopping to say so much
As hello

I have no idea
What happened after
That brief encounter
Except that Yetta and Raymond
Eloped and got married
And Irwin flew back to NYC
And I was still stuck in
Motel court yard hell
For the foreseeable future

Some time prior
To Yetta’s kismet
Encounter with her
Knight in shining armor
She and my mother
Were having another one
Of their classic arguments
Over who knows what

Tell momma to go to hell
Said Yetta trying to
Win me over to her side
Tell momma to drop dead

Well I was not about
To take part in any of that
So I tried to amuse myself
By playing with a razor
That Yetta had carelessly
Left in the sink
After shaving her legs

Not thinking
I took hold of the razor
With my open hand
And two seconds later
My thumb was gushing
Buckets of blood

My mother tried to stem
The flow of blood
By applying pressure
To the open wound
But the blood
Continued to flow

I don’t want to die momma
I screamed hysterically
Petrified at the sight
Of my own blood
Filling the porcelain
Sink basin
Momma I don’t want to die

Finally the blood flow eased
And the situation was under control
And I was relieved to know
That I was not going to die after all
Or else I would not have lived
Long enough
To have been able
To have written this poem

And I have to say
That was a great relief to me

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In The Barrels

When I was in my junior year at
Hamilton College
I had already begun
To regard myself as
Some sort of literary genius
So that when the chance
Presented itself to show case
My writing talents
By way of a college talent show contest
That involved the writing, directing and
Full scale production
Of an original play
Whether it was in one act or three
I immediately sat down at my typewriter
To take advantage of the sound
Of opportunity
Knocking at my door

I considered the challenge to be
Right up my alley
Never doubting for a minute
That my play would be among the
Top tier that would
Ultimately make the
Final selection

I had an idea for a three act play
That I would call
In The Barrels
Which was a reference
To an oft repeated phrase
That my deceased mother
Would often say in response
To my constant queries
As to why we were so poor

All of our good stuff
She would wistfully
And sadly explain
(Our good furniture
Our good clothes
Our good silverware)
Were in the barrels
A phrase that meant
That all of our more valuable
Had been placed in
Supposedly temporary storage
In some far out of the way
Godforsaken warehouse
Where all such family valuables
From people who had been previously
Dispossessed of their homes and property
Were shipped
Usually as a last resort
For one reason or another
But mostly because
It was during the so-called
Great Depression
And people were being
Evicted from their homes
On a regular basis
And my family
Was one of them
We too were
Evicted from our home
With all of our belongings
And worldly possessions
Tossed out onto the street
For non-payment of the rent
Our possessions ultimately
Ended up in warehouse storage
I.e. In the barrels

That is how the phrase
“In the barrels”
Came to represent the depository
For all of my family’s hopes and dreams

My play was simplicity itself
Based more or less on true events
That happened
When we had been living
In a typical Brooklyn slum neighborhood
In a Neptune avenue postage stamp
Of an apartment
In a run down apartment building
With a slum landlord
And a basement full of
Rats and rodents of all kinds

At night the rats and rodents
Would come out in force
Looking for whatever food
That they could find

These rats were the size of cats
And small dogs and
All of the cats in the neighborhood
Were afraid of these king sized rodents
So the rats had the run of the hallways
And the street alleys
And they ate their way
Through the walls
To gain access
To our apartments
And they even learned to
Thrive and grow fat eating the
Standard rat poisons of the day

Me and my mother
Were still living at
333 Neptune Avenue
When some of these filthy rats
Gained access to a baby
Who had been left unattended
In an adjoining apartment
By her alcoholic and boozing parents

The night that this horrible event
This innocent child
Was out cold
Sleeping peacefully
In her crib
(There was some speculation
Afterwards by the police
That the child may have been
Given a large amount of
Codeine cough medicine
By her alcoholic parents
In order to keep her quiet)

The story goes that the rats
Crawled into the girl’s crib
Attracted by the smell of
The child’s spilled milk
To eat the cookie crumbs that
Covered the child’s face and hands

And the rats began to eat
The poor baby’s flesh

By the time the child’s
Neglectful parents
Returned home
To find their baby
Covered in blood with
Half of her face chewed off
It was too late to save her

This story tragically
Was not an uncommon occurrence
In typical NYC slum neighborhoods
In the early to late fifties
Where rodent control was deemed to be
A low priority

I wrote this story up
Pretty much as it had
Actually occurred
As the central plot
Of my play
And I gave the play the title of
In The Barrels

The college community
Was suitably impressed
With my skills as a budding
Young playwright

In The Barrels
Received favorable reviews
In the college newspapers
And I received an honorable mention
For my play writing abilities

Naturally I was convinced that
I was destined to be
The next Edward Albee

The play had a short but successful run
In the college playhouse
And I went back to my studies
Basking in the new found respect
That I had received from
Faculty and students alike
Maybe I actually did have
A writing future ahead of me

To make a long poem
Even shorter
After graduation
The original manuscript of
In The Barrels
Became misplaced
much to my embarrassment
and chagrin
And sadly
I did not have
A second copy

Today the play is gone
Vanished into the ether
Lost for all time
To posterity

In The Barrels
Does continue to live on
If only in
In the memory
Of its author and
In the memories
Of the those
Privileged few
Who may have attended
The live performances

In The Barrels
Is now lost
In the barrels of space time
Where all such
Lost master pieces
Go to die

Philadelphia, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Morning On The Serengeti

So come ona my house
My house
My house
So come ona my house
And I’m a gonna give you candy
(Rosemary Clooney)

I am so close
To the finish line now
That I can almost
Taste it
I am not the same person
That I was when
I began this marathon run
To the finish line
In my memory
It seems that
I have been running
All of my life
For the past 64 years
Since birth
Run Forrest! Run!

Running the marathon
Has been all that I can ever
Remember doing
There is an African Proverb
That says that
Whether you are the lion
The jackal
Or the hare
Once the sun comes up
On the Serengeti
You had better be off and running
Running from danger
Running to avoid becoming
Someone else’s dinner
Running to put some food
On your family’s dinner table

After all
Everyone alive
Every living thing
Has a right to eat
A right to having a decent meal
To ward off starvation
Sickness and disease

The universal law of the universe
Is that all must eat or die
All must either kill
Or be killed
In order to eat

If we are too squeamish
To do the needed killing ourselves
We hire surrogates, others
To do the killing for us
In the name of the father
The son
And the Holy Ghost
Either that
Or we all end up as
French toast

So we all have to get up
And out
And we all have to run
Life’s little marathon
And we all have to put up
With the many ironies and obstacles
That block our way

Or not

There are always some
Who may fall by the wayside
Through no fault of their own
Some who are
Either too tired or too weak
Or too sick
Or too physically handicapped
To continue to make the
Enormous effort that is required
To survive this epidemic called
Where the universal law
Seems to be
That all who are born
Must also eventually die

This is a law from which
There is no reprieve
No commutation
No postponement

One may protest
One may attempt to
File an appeal
Asking for
Begging for
An extension or
A continuation

But such an outcome
Is not to be
So it is better to begin life
Run Forrest! Run!

Of course
It goes without saying that
Many of the marathoners
Do drop out of the race
For as many reasons
As there are runners

Some drop out because
They just quit
Or because they are simply
Too tired to go on any farther
Or because
They have lost heart!
Some drop out because
They no longer have the strength
Of body or spirit to continue

They are the ones
That society calls
The dropouts
The losers
The expendable ones
The poor
The sick
The halt
The lame
The blind
The ill
The homeless
The mentally ill
The mentally incompetent
The undesirables
The quitters
The hopeless
The addicted
The conflicted

Now it is Midnight on the Serengeti
For many the protective darkness
Provides a much needed chance to rest
For others the cover of night
provides yet another opportunity
To hunt and kill their prey
For others the darkness offers
One last chance to dream

But soon enough
The early morning light returns
And the long night at last
Begins to fade

And already the multitudinous
Flocks of every specie of bird
Of geese
Of duck
Along with scores of flocks of
Long necked pink flamingoes
Numbering in their tens of thousands
Have broken and taken flight

At the first stirrings
Of newly renewed life
The lioness
Hiding in the tall grass
Calls in low bellows
To the bevy of sister cats
And their new born cubs
That make up her pride

She is not yet ready to run
She pants and licks her paws
While her royal mate
Regally lifts his magnificent head
To half yawn
Half roar
To acknowledge
That it is once again morning
On the plains of the Serengeti
Reminding one and all
That the chase for survival
Must begin again

The lionesse watches keenly
As a flock of game hens
Break from cover
And head straight
For the water
Where the hippos and
Water buffalo
And crocodiles
Are waiting to greet them

Some of the wilderbeast
And spotted gazelle
Have already gathered to drink

It is morning on the Serengeti once again
And all of the great marathoners
Of every species
Must again
Get ready
To run
Whether they want to
or not

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011


When me and Stevie were kids
In Junior High School
We were the best of friends
No matter that one of us
Was richer than the other
Or that one of us
Was so much poorer
Than the other
No matter that one of us
Lived in a private
Gated community
Called Sea Gate
And no matter
That one of us
Lived in a
Public housing project
Called Gravesend houses
We were the best of friends
Even though I envied him
For having both a mother and a father
Me and my mom lived alone
And even though my dad
Came home alive
From being a soldier
In the First World War
He was given a disability discharge
Due to his service connected
War wounds
So to make a long story
I always told people
Who wanted to know
That my father
Was killed
In the First World War
I was a little going away present
That dad gave to mom
Just before he died
When I was only ten months old

My mother never complained
At the hand that life had dealt her
She just played out her hand
And bet her chips
And kept her poker face on
As she stared down
Life’s many adversities

I’ll give her credit for this much
She knew when to hold em
And when to fold em
And I often watched her in awe
As she bluffed her way
Out of more than one
Sticky situation after another
Without having even so much
As a pair of deuces in her hand

One afternoon
After school
Stevie and I were goofing off
As usual
Not really sure
What we wanted to do
When out of the blue
Stevie asks me to tackle him
On the concrete pavement
In front of his house
You crazy or what I said
That’s concrete you’re standing on
We would both get skinned
Tackle me he repeated
In a way that was both
A challenge and a dare
Don’t be a pussy he said
Getting personal about the matter
I ain’t no pussy I said
Getting a little testy
About his tone and manner
So tackle me then
What are you afraid of
Nothing I said
Although I thought that
The whole idea was more than dumb
I understood that I was being challenged
But what was this challenge to be
A test of our friendship
A test of loyalty
A test of guts and courage
Over brains and good judgment
All of the above

I guess Stevie finally got tired of waiting
For me to make up my mind
He waved me off with a dismissive
Forget you he said
I should have known better than to ask

And with that I laid into him
Going full tilt
Knocking us both to the pavement
Until I could feel the stones
And bits of cut glass
Stinging my now damaged and badly scrapped
Elbows and knees
I could feel trickles of blood
Beginning to ooze out of
Various new bruises

Stevie laughed like crazy
Sonofabitch he said
Pushing me off his hurting body
Not caring that he had been hurt
Or damaged
Or that his clothes got torn

Why should he care after all
He was a rich kid
And he could always buy new clothes
Any time he wanted

Despite the fact that
The palm of my right hand
Was now cut and bleeding
I helped Stevie up
As bits of glass and dirt
Pushed deeper into the skin
As we pulled at each other
Until we were both
Once more fully erect
And standing on our own two feet

Stevie brushed himself off
Still shaking his head
And then he looked at me
Straight in the eye

You know he said
You are one crazy
Sonofabitch he said
While shaking my now
Possibly broken hand

Yeah I said
Disregarding the pain
So what does that make you?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

At The Hop

Well, you can swing it you can groove it,
You can really start to move it, at the hop.
Where the jockey is the smoothest,
And the music is the coolest, at the hop.
All the cats and chicks can get their kicks at the hop.
Let's go!

(Eddie and the Dreamers)

I finally did get to go
To the fifth grade school dance
The closest thing to a “Hop”
Fifties style jamboree
That I ever did actually
Get to attend

By the time
The scheduled dance
Rolled around
I was able to scrape up
A borrowed suit
From my next door neighbor
Melvin Zeldin

The suit was about
Two sizes too big for me
And the trousers had to be folded
And refolded at the cuffs
To make them short enough
For me to wear

I had a recent buzz cut haircut
That made me look like
A refugee from some
Concentration camp
All that was missing
To complete the picture
Was a set of tattooed numbers
On my forearm

My prom date was to be
Judy Frasier
A red haired
Freckle faced
Little bit of Long Island crumpet
Whose face was scrubbed so clean
That her skin actually shined
Like our kitchen linoleum tiled floor

She was all white lace
And starch
I had to buy her a corsage
For her wrist that
Looked exactly like the ones
That all the other girls were wearing

I remember the two of us
Sitting side by side
In the back seat
Of my older brother’s
Our feet not yet able
To touch the floor

We didn’t dare speak to each other
Let alone look at one another
My hands were sweating and clammy cold
I guessed that Judy’s hands were the same
It really didn’t matter
As the very idea of actually holding hands
Was entirely out of the question
I suppose Judy suspected me of having cooties
And I had my suspicions about her
Cootie status as well

I had been given a few
Rudimentary dance lessons
At a local dance school
Just so that I would not make
A complete ass of myself
On the dance floor

We were taught the rudiments of
The fox trot and the box step waltz
On my own I had picked up
The basics of the cha cha cha
By watching American Band Stand on TV
Hosted by the legendary Dick Clark
I had no idea how Judy had learned to dance
And I wasn’t about to ask her

I had no idea why it was so important
To go the fifth grade dance hop
In the first place
I suppose it was meant
To socialize us kids
So that we did not become
Juvenile delinquents

My chances of becoming a juvenile delinquent
Were zero to none
As closely watched and supervised
As we kids were by
Mr. and Mrs. Admiral Bull Halsey
As I had come to refer to my
Foster parents
Who were my brother and sister in law
In real life

Judy Frasier was the daughter
Of the man who was rewiring our house
I suppose he just wanted to be sure
That his daughter would have a date
To the fifth grade hop
So that she would not have to be
A wall flower as the unpopular girls
Were called back then
Back then there was nothing worse
Than to be called a wallflower by your peers
It usually meant that you were a loser
And so socially inept
That no one
Would ever want to dance with you
There was no equivalent epithet
For lonely and homely looking boys

So Judy and I did our duty
To God and country
And to the fifth grade hop
By valiantly dancing the fox trop
And the box step waltz
While I waited to perform
My version of the cha cha cha
But my big chance never came
As the adult chaperones
Were not big fans
Of the cha cha cha
Considering it to be too
Risqué for fifth graders
And maybe they were right

Seems like anything
That we kids could think of
That in any way smacked of fun
Was considered by the grown ups
To be too risqué
For us fifth graders
Or for anyone else for that matter
Smoking was frowned upon
As was drinking
As was cussing
As was not going to church
If you were born a Christian
Or not going to synagogue
If you were born a Jew
And married couples
Very often slept in separate beds
Just like the make believe
Married couples on TV
Like Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore

All the school age boys had crew cuts
And all the school age girls had curls and long hair
That they brushed endlessly
For hours at a time as
Every one agreed that
Having well groomed hair
Was a social must

Both Judy and I were eternally grateful
When the fifth grade hop came to an end
And we could go back to our respective homes
And change into our pajamas
And have some chocolate milk and cookies
Before going to bed
Though I was very upset
That I had to miss
My favorite TV show Bonanza that night

I later heard that Judy
Was equally upset because she did not
Receive her expected good night kiss
That was entirely my fault
As I was so glad to be getting a reprieve from
Having to wear Melvin Zeldin’s borrowed
Itchy wool suit
That all thoughts
Of having to give Judy Frasier
Her good night kiss had
Completely skipped my mind

And I never did get another chance
To make it up to her

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beat The Clock

There used to be
A black and white
TV show on
Back in the early 1950’s
Beat The Clock
Hosted by a non-descript
TV pitchman named
Bud Collyer

The gist of the show
Was to have several
Non-descript guests
Representative of the totally
Conformist TV viewing public
Perform several dumb people tricks
On a large stage
While the ever present
Clock loudly ticked off the time

Usually the given task
Had to be accomplished
In sixty seconds or less

The assigned tasks
Were as mindless
As they were inane
Stuff like having
To stack a set of plates
Without using hands
Other stunts involved
Getting the contestants
As sloppy dirty as possible
So that they would
Slip and slide
And do prate falls
And be as humiliated
As the show hosts were
Able to do
Within the confines
Of the so-called
1950’s ethics code
Of acceptable behavior

Which was to pretend
That all this
Public humiliation was really
Being done in the name
Of good clean fun

Who would have thought
That such mindless mischief
Would become the template
For the rest of our
Working lives?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011