Monday, January 31, 2011

My Next Door Neighbors

My next door neighbors
Had a family row last night
Very late in the evening
Way past my bedtime
As I was tossing and turning
Looking for the sweet spot
On my pillow
Hoping to fall back to sleep again
Before the row got any louder
And woke me up for good
I needed to sleep
Since tomorrow is another work day
And I’ve already been warned
About being late and tardy
Causing my boss to get up
On his high horse
To issues warnings about
This rule and that regulation
And about how I should be grateful
To even have a job at my age
Two years from formal retirement
And I know he is right
Getting up in the morning
Is hard work for me these days
And rushing off to work
To catch the 59 bus
And the Market-Frankford line
To Center City
Before the Big Ben clock
In the City Hall tower
Can strike
The hour of nine
Just so that I can get my name
On the sign in sheet in time
Just so I can get my name
On the sign in sheet in time
For I must get my name
On the sign in sheet in time
Or face the bloody consequences
And another fresh helping of dire warnings
But the row next door
Just kept on getting louder
And more menacing
With furniture being thrown
And smashing against the wall
Accompanied by threats to do bodily harm
To this one and that
With lots of cursing and swearing
And name calling of all kinds
Mean nasty words
Coated in bile
Aimed to hurt and wound
And to tear the heart out of the other
“Its 3:30 a.m. in the morning you crazy bastard!”
“You come barging in here at 3:30 a.m. in the morning
Stinking drunk and you expect me
To make you breakfast?”
Not me, I said sleepily to myself
No, I wouldn’t expect
That much of a favor
No, not at 3:30 a.m.
Well, no need to consult the alarm clock
On the night table
Next to my bed
I said to myself
As the cursing and loud screaming
And smashing of furniture
Continued next door
Either I get up and call the police
Or I roll over
And try to catch
Another 40 winks
No need to consult the alarm clock
To figure out what time it was
I told myself
Drifting off back to sleep
It’s 3:30 a.m. in the morning
And I am slowly drifting off
Back to sleep.

Philadelphia, Pa., 2011

The Source

One of the benefits
Of being snowed in
During a recent snowstorm
Was having the chance
To see a rerun of “The Miracle Worker”
This is one
That always makes me tear-up
So perfect are the performances
Of Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft
Depicting the lives of Helen Keller
And her devoted teacher Anne Sullivan Macy
If you haven’t seen this one
You really must make it your business
And be sure to have
A box of Kleenex nearby
Handy in case you also cry
For what was it like for Helen
To have been so deeply locked up
A prisoner inside her own brain
Unable to make sense of her world
Doomed to a lifetime of dependency
and institutionalization
when, through the untiring work of her dear teacher
To be rescued, saved
Called back to life
Through loving devotion
Able to rise and breathe
Freed at last from her private hell
Summoned back to life
Like Lazarus,
Yes, just like Lazarus
Like the 40 Peruvian miners
Who were buried alive
In a Peruvian coal mine
Given up for dead
Only to be brought back
Back to life
Back to the bright sunshine of liberation
and renewed hope
a miracle truly
yet I could only wonder
What was the source
The source that saved them all
That enabled them
To overcome every obstacle
Every road block
Every defeat
Perhaps, it was a miracle
How else to explain it
For Helen to rediscover life
From water
Water from a well
To be able to connect
At long last
A word with its object
And to understand
That every object
is connected to a word
and to know
to finally be able to know
that both words and objects
are what the world is made of
She knows!
She knows!
The windows of her mind
Thrown wide open at last
Open to the source
The true source
The one source
The source
That made us all
For in the beginning
Was the word
And the word
Was with God
And God was
in the word
and again
I say

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Born On Skid Row

Just because I was born on Skid Row
Doesn’t necessarily mean
That I want to die there
I have spent my whole life
To keep a roof
Over my head
Praying to not have to share the same fate
As so many who end up homeless
So many other Americans
Who find themselves
Sleeping on the hard concrete
Pavement sidewalks
Of every American city
Despite their best efforts
And all their hopes and dreams
For a better life

I see them every day
Huddled over steam vents
In the bus terminals
At subway stations
Sleeping on trains
Park benches and alleyways
In the madhouses and homeless shelters
Behind the churches and fast food joints
Snuggled up against the trash dumpsters
And each other

Not for me I say
Praying every day
That it doesn’t happen to me
Knowing all the while
That there but for the grace of God
Go I and just about everyone else I know
Who is living paycheck to paycheck
If they are lucky enough to be able
To find any work at all
And what’s that you say
They’re shipping all of our jobs to China
Does the President know what’s happening
Does anyone in government really care
Or are they too busy sucking
On the great big Federal Tit
Taking all of the government benefits that they can
While denying the same right to all others
Weaker than they
Less powerful than they
Less able than they
Less worthy than they
Sicker than they
While they justify stealing all that they can
And feeling superior about it
Superior to all of us
who were born on Skid Row
And who despite a lifetime
of back breaking struggle
have never been allowed to leave.

j.h. markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa., 2011


Ciao, baby
You’ve just caught me
In a bukowski state of mind
Not very literate
But also not meant to be unkind
In its’ own way
If only I can get out
Of my own way
My, what big feet you have
And will that new leg ulcer ever heal
And what’s with the blurry vision
And the weight gain
All of a sudden
This diabetes ain’t
A whole lot of fun
I was sold a bill of goods
Along with a shitload of bogus
Yet ever so expensive
Prescription drugs and Insulin
For conditions I didn’t
Even know I had
Let alone understand
Beyond the scheduled
Degradations caused by the inevitable
March of time
So please, pretty please
bang the drum slowly
if you insist on banging it at all
as slowly and as softly as you can
I would greatly appreciate
Such a kind gesture
The slower and softer the better
since my head is still throbbing
From being
in a bukowski
yes I said a bukowski
state of mind

j.h. markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa., 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Poem As Memorial

Shimmy shimmy coco bop shimmy shimmy bop (ahh)
Shimmy shimmy coco bop shimmy shimmy bop(ahh)
Sittin´ in a native hut
All alone & blue
Sittin´ in a native hut
Wonderin´ what to do
Along came a native girl
Did a native dance
It was like a Paradise
Put me in a trance
Goin´ Shimmy shimmy coco bop
shimmy shimmy bop
Shimmy shimmy coco bop
shimmy shimmy bop
(Lyrics by Little Anthony and the Imperials)

This poem
Such as it is
Is meant to be
A memorial
Yes, a memorial
To all the heroes
Of my generation
And of every generation
Who ever had the courage
And the balls
To say NO to war!
To all those of my generation
And of every generation
Who ever had the courage to shout
To the five star generals
Who wanted to recruit
All of us twenty some things
To be cannon fodder for war
All the five star generals
Who wanted us to go off to war
And die in the rice paddies
Of some of the poorest
Peoples on earth
To burn their hootches
And kill their families
And yes babies too
And yes babies too
In the name of freedom
And of equal death for all
In the name of patriotic duty
In the name of the father
And the son
And the Holy Ghost
To crucify humanity
In the name of expanding global markets
Eminent domain
Blood for oil
Death for the sake of death
To test new weapons
On new battlefields
To make the Pentagon proud
Because all real Americans
Love the sting of battle
Said Old Blood and Guts
(Yeah, his guts, our blood!)
All hail the conquering hero
Does even Kilroy
Know if we were ever there
Millions of corpses
Strewn over millions of battlefields
Yet we cannot consecrate
Nor can we hallow this ground
So that these brave souls
Shall not have died in vain
So that some tired old ideas
Will not have died an untimely death
Nor have perished from the face of the earth
Because that’s how the powers that be
Wanted it to be
So it’s off to Baghdad
And Afghanistan
In search of non existent
Reasons for war
For who needs reasons any more
If you ain’t with us
Are you against us
Hearts and minds
Winning the high moral ground
Before the Tet New Year Celebrations
Blew all of the neatly packaged lies to hell
Because of all the cities
we had to destroy
In order to save them
To secure the pipelines of rage
Flowing from every madras
And peasant village
In provinces so far and so distant
That they are untouched by human civilization
Untouched by time, or history itself
From pipelines to the pipe bombs
Scarring the countryside
And on the internet
With precise illustrated instructions
For suicide bombers
In the name of the merciful
And magnanimous
Slow to anger
With equal injustice for all

This poem
Such as it is
Is meant to be
A memorial
Yes, a memorial
To all the heroes
Of my generation
And of every generation
Who have ever had the courage
And the balls
To say NO to war!

As a memorial
This poem may not stand the test of time
But for the moment
Because the moment is all
That we will ever have
This poem will simply have to do
Until something better comes along.

Goin´ Shimmy shimmy coco bop
shimmy shimmy bop
Shimmy shimmy coco bop
shimmy shimmy bop

jack h. markowitz
Philadelphia, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Holy Hole Mantra

(Repeat each verse out loud seven times.
I double dutch dare ya).

Holy hole
Holy hole
Holy hole

Heydi heydi hydi ho
Heydi heydi hydi ho
Heydi heydi hydi ho

Wholly whole
Wholly whole
Wholly whole

Heydi hydi heydi ho
Heydi hydi heydi ho
Heydi hydi heydi ho

Holy whole
Holy whole
Holy whole

Heydi heydi heydi ho
Heydi heydi heydi ho
Heydi heydi heydi ho

Holy hole
Wholly whole
Holy whole

Heydi hydi hydi ho
Heydi hydi hydi ho
Heydi hydi hydi ho

Philadelphia, pa. 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Getting Away With Murder

Jared Loughner woke up last Wednesday
And thought to himself
Today is a good day to die
So like John Wayne in the movies
He saddled up his car
Stuffed his nine millimeter glock special
With 31 rounds of ammunition
Into his trusty book bag
And said to himself
Today that bitch is going to die
Meaning Gabrielle Giffords
Who was part of the government conspiracy
To control minds through the rules of grammar
Or so Jared thought
Also it was she who would not let him print
His own currency
So clearly she had to die
Besides she was beautiful, young and intelligent
Everything he was not or could ever hope to be
So clearly she had to die
That morning Jared had argued with his father
They shouted at each other on the front lawn
For all to hear
Because his dad suspected that Jared was not all right
That bright sunny day in Tucson,
A day so bright and full of promise
That Jared thought it was a good day for all to die
What do you have in your bag?
His father had asked.
What are you planning to do?
I plan to kill as many people as I possibly can
Screamed Jared spitting out his hate
And if I’m lucky I’ll come back and kill you too!
If he didn’t actually speak those words
We now know that was what he was thinking
As he drove off in a rage,
He was chased by his father
Who would have stopped him if only he could have
But no such luck
Jared was gone
To fulfill his mission, his purpose
And all he needed was just a little bit of good luck
Because he never had much good luck
In anything that he had ever tried to do
So he needed some today
Because he was insane and sick
And full of self-hate and self-loathing
And all he wanted to do was to kill someone
To make himself feel important
And to silence the demons that kept telling him
What a worthless piece of shit he really was

That morning Gabrielle Giffords was speaking
She was talking to her peeps
To the very folks who had sent her to Congress
And she was smart and beautiful
And young and intelligent
And Jared had already decided her fate

He had made sure to creep up behind her
To cowardly shoot her in the back of her head
Then he pointed his gun at the horrified crowd
Or perhaps to shoot himself instead
Then bodies began to fall all around him
Amid screams of horror and dread

And blood began to spurt
And all Hell broke loose
Just as Jared had hoped
For now he was in his element
The master of his fate
The star of his own movie
Just like at Columbine
Just like at Oklahoma City
Just like at Virginia Tech
Just like the Twin Towers on 911
And for a brief moment
Jared actually felt alive
And fulfilled

God bless America
He thought
Blessed land of opportunity for all
As he was being pushed face first
Into the parking lot pavement
Surrounded by the dead and wounded
Including nine year old Christine Taylor Green
Who had come to hear Gabrielle speak
Because she wanted to grow up
to be just like her someday
her brief life snuffed out
by a monster from Hell
who came to the Safeway parking lot
that bright sunny Tucson afternoon
because he thought
it was going to be
a very good day…

j. h. markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa., 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I received the letter in the mail today
It said that I was prequalified
To receive a loan of six thousand dollars
And all I had to do was to fill out the application
And sign my signature on the dotted line
Pending and upon condition
that I meet the finance company’s easy criteria
Double talk and gobbledygook
Words that mean
whatever the loan sharks want them to mean
Despite the fact that I was holding a letter
That said that I was prequalified
What the finance company really wants
Is to trick me into using my house as collateral
For the loan, see?
This way they can bide their time
Waiting for me to default on the loan
Which I would eventually surely do
As I cannot manage my household budget
To save my soul
Having already been forced
Into bankruptcy at least twice before
By the same pig financiers
Who are trying to hoodwink me
Yet again
So easy a patsy do they think I am
A new sucker is born every minute
Said the huckster
And I don’t doubt that he is probably right
Well bless me if I didn’t need that six thousand dollars
There’s plenty to spend it on after all
there's the roof that needs fixin, and the bathroom floor is cracked
And the garage door needs replacing
And I could do with a haircut and a new pair of shoes
Diabetic shoes that usually run
around three hundred bucks a pair
So I was sorely tempted to take the bait
But I knew that sooner or later
that finance company
Is going to want to get repaid
With interest
And since I really could not pay back the loan on time
They knew that I knew
that I would have to start stealing from Peter to pay Paul
And sooner or later I would end up in default on the loan
And then before you could say Jackie Robinson
the other letter would surely come in the mail
The one that said that my house was in foreclosure
(The ugliest word in the English language)
So before all that could happen (again!)
I tore up the letter that said that I was prequalified
For a loan of six grand that I could sorely use
And I tossed it into the trash
Not because I had the courage of my convictions
But mostly because I had become
a wise old coot in the winter of my old age
And much too smart for my own damn good.

j.h. markowitz
Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

A Poem A Day

A poem a day
Keeps the brain matter

philadelphia, pa. 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011


People spit because they are angry
They spit because they are enraged
They spit because they have been abused
They spit to see who can spit the farthest
They spit because they are totally fed up
They spit because they have had just about enough
They spit because they are pissed off
They spit because they are bored out of their minds
And sometimes they spit just for the hell of it
Or because they think it is a fun thing to do.
That’s why some people spit,
So what about you?

j.h. markowitz
Philadelphia, pa. 2010

You, Like Driftwood and Other Poems

You, Like Driftwood

You, like driftwood
Have known the sea
And paced the wind,
And each has touched you
And changed you
Without apparent design
Just a little,
So that when you again
Rest with shore
With me
I can scarce recall
That which is forever in change,
And adrift.

The Down Children

The Down Children
Taste their day
Among the heart high grass
Of the morning tide
And shout
From beneath the bubbling sands
To the ghostly Osprey
Who wing their way
Toward barren nests.
At night,
Cramped in love,
They ply the silver sands
And write love’s poem
In a barren dune.

Untie the Twelve Year Knot, Untie

Untie the twelve year knot, untie
No signal moon to light me by
Nymphs and fairy thumbs churn the night
And scratch
Against the rinds in flight
While all around
The nails of bone
Build halls and hells
And call it home
And tile the air
With killing chords
And saw me up
And stack the boards
Until sleep
My boon companion
Whose magic oils
Stir my ruin
With chilling hand
Stills the many
Boiling thoughts
And brewing honey.

Can I Love You Better Than This?

Can I love you better than this
Than to picture when we kiss
A pond in winter
Ringed by snow
Where naked willows
Await the spring to grow
Where time too has frozen still
And all sounds elude the ear
Where my love abides forever
Like a thirsting winter deer?

Smoke and Mirrors


(Words in italics to be sung softly to the tune “La Vie En Rose” as sung by Edith Piaf)

“Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose…”

Here today, gone tomorrow
Today’s joy is the morrow’s sorrow
In sickness and in health
Living on borrowed wealth
Concentrating all on self…

“When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose…”

I build my castles in the air
Play at war like Fred Astair
Never tripping or falling
Never in danger of stalling
Winning kudos like Linus Pauling…

“And when you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom…”

In the mirrored hall I pause, a slight delay
As I prepare to rejoin the fray
To vainly smooth my hair
When in my mind’s eye
I happen to see such a glimpse of me
Of all that I am or ever hoped to be
And I shudder to wonder…
Is it all just so much smoke?
Or is it really me?

“Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose…”

j.h. markowitz
philadelphia, pa.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

We Were Talking About the Impossibility of Being Me

I am so full of contradictions
That it amazes me
How I am able
To keep it all together
When every single
Atom and molecule
In my body
Wants to go
Its own separate way
As if they had
Some other pressing engagement
Someplace more exciting
Some other wild party to go to
Someplace where the action is hotter,
Where there are more
Curves and dips
More Salsa and chips
In the roller coaster ride of life
Someplace more hip and fun
More warm and inviting
Where the sounds of a mariachi band
Can be heard playing in the distance
Over the small talk and chatter
Of vacationing guests
Where the sun always shines
And the waves always splash against the shore
Where the bar is always open
Where there is plenty of eye candy
To go around

Can’t say that I blame them
If I ever had the chance and opportunity
I would want to go there too.

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011