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