Friday, December 28, 2012

End Game or Boys Will Be Boys

I can still feel
the full weight of him
sitting on my chest
pinning me to the ground
so that I could
barely move and
barely breathe

What had begun
as a game
as a contest of strength
between two school chums
had somehow escalated
into a contest of wills
and into a contest
of  brute domination

His yellow stained teeth
stretched into a
sardonic grin
as he exploited his
position of power
pinning me to the mat
like a butterfly
stuck on fly paper

I twisted and struggled
and I arched my back and
flailed my legs
trying to free myself
from being so
thoroughly humiliated
and embarrassed
and conquered
by someone
who had the sheer
physical strength
to render me
to be rendered so
utterly helpless
and at the mercy
of a stronger brute
who just wanted to
so thoroughly
embarrass and humiliate me
(this once erstwhile best friend)
that the thought that
the end result of this
mock gladiatorial battle
could mean the end
of years of budding friendship
did not matter to him

I could smell his foul breath
and feel the drops of his perspiration
hitting my face
while he laughed at me and
mocked me
for my alleged girly ways
and my alleged sissy ways
while he showed me
in no uncertain terms
what it meant
to be a  real
manly man
a 100 percent
red blooded
all American
football playing
fag hating
woman hating
motherhood and cherry pie hating
red neck loving
skin head loving
nazi loving
self- jew hating
pimply faced
fat bellied
miscreant and
all around
miserable excuse
for a human being

I stopped struggling
I went limp
I cried uncle
I allowed myself
to shed tears
all to no avail

I cursed my tormentor
This boy who was
my next door neighbor
and until today
my erstwhile best friend
while thoughts of revenge
played out
various scenarios
in my head
I may even have
passed out

When I came back
to my senses
he was gone
I looked down and saw
that I had soiled my pants
in more ways than one

I struggled to my feet
and dusted myself off
and I literally licked
my wounds

It was game over
and that’s all she wrote

All in all
it had not been
a very good day

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Pain In My Groin

It hurts me
this pain
in my groin
this mysterious pain
that just
suddenly appeared
hot to the touch
painful to the touch
fine one day
lame the next

This mysterious pain
has hobbled me and
humbled me
I self medicate
but it refuses
to go away

I dragged my butt
to the MD finally
(after stalling for two weeks
in the hope the affliction
would heal of its own accord –
it did not)

So, Doc, what’s the verdict
I asked
after being physically examined
and poked and
made to turn my head
and cough
(flashback to my Army
induction days)

But the good doctor
just shrugged his shoulders
Dunno, he said
Not sure, he said
Could be this or
it could be that

What to do then
I asked
hoping that
Doctor Lee
had an inkling
as to how to proceed
It is a helpless feeling
standing naked
in the busy intake office
with dozens of other patients
waiting outside the door
for the good doctor’s attention

Let’s send you for
at Jeannes Hospital and
see what they come up with there
then we’ll have a better idea
as to how to proceed

More time to waste

My guess is that it’s a hernia
this I gathered from
researching the internet
or it could be
something else
something much worse
I stop myself from
further speculation

I will wait my turn
and I will submit myself
to the modern age
of medical science
I will do as I am told
I will try to be less arrogant
and more humble

In the meantime
I self medicate
and wait
until the clock
ticks off the time
to my appointment

And I try to go about
my business as usual
occupying my days
with the tedious
little chores
that make up my
orderly and routine
tick tock
tick tock
until it is
finally my turn
to ride the
silver gurney
It is not a ride
that I am looking
forward to

Stay tuned!

I will let you know
how it all turns out!

Philadelphia, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

It's Not A Bed

It's not a bed
It's a battlefield
It's not sleep
It's a wrestling match
It's not love
It's a test of wills
A pox!
A pox
I say!
On all your
homeless houses!

Philadelphia, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Non Basta Una Vita!

We have a saying
in my small
circle of friends
Non basta una vita!
do not waste your life!
try to make
your life
count for something
in some way
some shape or
some form
Non basta una vita!

To the casual passerby
it sounds like a
no brainer
How is it even possible
to waste your life
when the simple act
of breathing in and
breathing out
nearly all that is
required for a life
to perpetuate itself
from moment to moment
from saga to saga
from adventure to misadventure

Why do we need to bother
trying to add
another overlay of
patina to the brickpile?
Why must we
feel compelled to
take the next step
to insist that
life have meaning
as well?

Perhaps it is
the life-force itself
that compels us

Today we mourn the loss
and celebrate the life
of Dave Brubeck
the jazz aficionado
whose intellectual approach
to American jazz
broke new ground and helped to
elevate the genre to new
heights of
international acclaim
“It’s all about rhythm and percussion”
he said
“The first and last sound 
that we ever hear
is the beating of our own hearts”

Non basta una vita!
R.I.P. Dave Brubeck!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Father Died

My father died
when I was only
ten months old
and I have missed
his presence in my life
ever since
in more ways than one
As part of the
baby boomer generation
I cut my teeth on
daytime TV
as did so many of
my peers
Those were the days
when TV programming
was still in its
toddler years
We watched
the antics of
Buffalo Bob and of
Clarabell the clown
on the
Howdy Doody Show
We followed the
animated adventures of
Mickey Mouse and
Daffy Duck and
Porky Pig and
Bugs Bunny
with a devotion
usually reserved for
movie stars and
hero athletes
And we also grew up with
TV commercials and
advertising jingles that soon
became as familiar and as
memorable as the shows
that ran the ads
One such commercial
was especially
meaningful for me
This was the one
where a cute boy bellhop
(who was only a year or two
older than I was at the time)
would walk through a
posh hotel lobby
calling for the name of
a fictitious person by
the name of
Phillip Morris

My dead father’s name
was also Phillip although
our family name is
Markowitz and not Morris
It took me a while
(years actually)
to figure out
why this particular
cigarette commercial
had become one of
my most memorable
Every time the bellhop
would stop and
make his famous pitch
“Call for Phillip Morris…”
my ears would perk up
and I would feel
a funny
combined twinge of
nostalgia and regret
And then
it dawned on me!
That cute kid
in the
Curious George
monkey suit and
pill box hat was
really me
(or rather a cartoon
character version of me)
It was me
calling out for my
long dead father
from the deepest
recesses of my soul

Call for Phillip Morris!
Call for Phillip Morris!
Where are you?
I miss you Daddy!
Call for Phillip Markowitz!

Daddy won’t you please
come home?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

On Being Alone

They say that
it is better
to be
single and alone
than married and alone

I have been both

I’d just rather
not be alone

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Life Is A Game Of Inches

Like football
life is a game of inches
first and goal
third down
to pass or
to run
only six inches to go
between failure
and success
between happiness
and grief

When you were small
you used to take my hand
whenever we had to cross
the street
such a tiny hand
such a busy
and dangerous street
and when we’d cross
you would skip and jump
the entire way
as if just walking
were not fun enough
sometimes I would join in
not caring how silly
it might look

It didn’t take much
to make us both
feel happy
back then
a visit to the zoo
the circus
a swing
a see-saw
jumping into a pile
of fallen autumn leaves
and making them scatter
to kingdom come

And if your nose ran
I’d find a hankie
and if your knee
was scraped
I’d find a band aid

Then you grew up
and moved away
and we hardly ever
see each other
any more
you have your own
kids now
and it is your hand
that reaches out to them
to provide for all
of their needs
small hands
small feet
small shoes
small hats and coats

It is the small things
in life
that matter the most

Philadelphia, Pa 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Catherine Petite

Catherine Petite
met en fuite
q’un jour
sans peur
je te verrai

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012


Alexis Kornfeld
was my make believe
when I was
a teenager in love
and living
in the coney island
low income
housing projects

Alexis was a blond haired
blue eyed beauty
who lived in the building
down the block on
seaview avenue and
she made the whole
neighborhood look good

Guys from
other neighborhoods
would pull up
in their fancy
shiny new cars
(the ones with
all the chrome
and fancy fins)
and they would cruise
the boulevard
trying to pick up
the easy fun loving
girls from the projects
for a saturday night
of finger fucking fun

It was easy pickings
for these chicken hawks
who had only to flash
a little cash
and the promise
of a good time
and a night out
on the town
for the girls
in the angora sweaters
and skin tight
pedal pushers
to freshen up their
ruby red lipsticks
and perfumed
before jumping
into the plush
leather seats of these
rolling casonavas
with their
slicked back hair
and oily hairy chests
festooned with
glittering gold
and muscle T shirts
and tattoos to cover
some real scars
earned in
gangland rumbles
that would provide the
fodder for
broadway musicals
for the uptown
fancy dandies
who liked to fantasize
about the romantic
escapades of the
lower classes
this being the
uptight fifties
when sex was still
officially taboo but
on the minds of
every red blooded
American boy and gal
all the same
fueled by hot
rock and roll music
and cheap booze
thunderbird wine
designed to get
the girls drunk fast
to prepare them for the
quick feels
wet hickies and hot
back seat sex
that made the
teen jive jumpin
back seat humpin
world of teenage
rebel rousers seem
dangerous and intoxicating

And Alexis Kornfeld
was the queen of
seaview boulevard
all the boys wanted her
(me included!
I knew that
I  had about as much chance
of hooking up with the likes of her
as I was likely to have
angels fly out of my ass!)
I died a little inside
every time
Alexis would
jump in beside
one of these slick
muscle bound
Italian boys from
bay 50th street

So I invented a story
that Alexis and I were
actually dating
and to prove it
I wrote pathetic
love letters to myself
and pretended
that they came from her

I flashed the letters
all over the neighborhood
and my friends
would swoon over the
perfume drenched
ersatz missives
jealous and envious
while being
jaundiced and skeptical
at the same time.
they all believed
because they
wanted to believe
that one of their own
actually had a chance
with the likes of her
so for a while there
I was riding high
on my own supply
until the day of reckoning
inevitably came

That was the day that
Alexis ran off and married
one of her many suitors
and made her move
to parts unknown
(most likely
Staten Island or
New Jersey).

I was heartbroken
but what could I do
after all
she wasn’t really my girl friend
and I sincerely doubt
that she ever even knew

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Mina The Schnozz

Her name was Mina
she was tall and slim
and smart as a whip

Her nickname
among the slum rats of
the housing project was
Mina the Shnozz
because she had
a big fat
middle eastern nose
from her
east european
immigrant parents
and she paid dearly
for this egregious
facial flaw
by being teased
constantly by
the gutter snipes that
inhabited the neighborhood
such as it was
and this inexcusable
bullying behavior
went on for years
all through
junior high school

As a graduation present
and as a gift for her
sweet sixteen
Mina’s parents
scraped together
enough money to
provide her with
the gift of
plastic surgery
to make her
nose more proportionate
to her face

The transformation
was remarkable
and immediate and
Mina was instantly transformed
into one of the most
beautiful girls
ever to enter
the freshman class
of Abraham Lincoln High

And though she continued
to reside in the projects
she resolved to have
nothing to do with
any of her previous tormentors
and who could blame her

Mina sailed through
high school as the
reigning beauty queen and
upon graduation
she launched a
very successful
modeling and
fashion design career

The gutter snipes
of coney island
learned an important
life lesson about
never judging a book
by its cover

I liked her fine
when she was still
known as
Mina the Shnozz
either way
she never took
any special notice of me

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Life On The Edge

Like so many microbes
who have set up shop
on a quivering piece
of decaying leaf
we all live life
on the razor’s edge
on the sharpest part
the cutting blade

All that is required
to extinguish all
life as we know it here
on planet earth
is for our planet
to take a direct hit
from a gamma ray burst
from some
nearby dying star
and all life
as we know it
here on earth
will be put
out of business
Let me know
if you wish to leave
a forwarding address

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Last Night I Saw A Wookie

I had all but forgotten
that last night was
all hallows eve
until I saw
a rather large Wookie
with a hob goblin
on his sleeve
and further down the line
tooting their horns
sat two festive clowns
both as happy
as you please

then along came some ghosts
and an Indian princess or two
then a pair of
twins Siamese
and then
an entire pirate crew

some were shouting
trick or treat!
others a mere howdy do!
I nodded back
politely in return
and a happy
all hallows eve to
every one of you!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FrankenStorm 2012

Call it a miracle or
simply call it luck
I was one
of the fortunate few
to escape the wrath of
relatively intact
none the worse for wear
my house is still standing
and I am still of
sound body and mind
ten fingers and ten toes
arms and legs
all where they should be
and although I have my share
of aches and pains
diabetes and other
ailments too numerous
to recite
I was able to rise up
out of my bed
this morning and
find my way to work
as though
had never come to town
and I was not alone
bus drivers
all went about their
daily routines
as if the second storm
of the century
(Katrina being the first)
had been nothing more
than just another
rainy windy day

(albeit with a lot
of collateral damage
to those to our north and south
who were not as fortunate as we)

Perhaps we have survivor’s guilt
why were we spared while
others were seemingly
so severely punished
and made to suffer
such terrible deprivations
there but for the
grace of G-d
go we all

I was sick
with the Flu the whole time
that Hurricane Sandy
aka FrankenStorm
was wrecking the city
that I have grown to love                                                                                        
and I was having
fits of
body shaking coughing spells
along with bouts of
fever and
my eyes were bleary
and my nose was stuffed
and it was hard to keep on
breathing regardless of
whether I was awake or asleep
and my back
would go into spasm
with every hacking cough
in addition
I have had a groin pull injury
for the past several weeks
that makes the usually
simple routine
of getting in and out
of an arm chair into
a pain filled ordeal
so piercing that
it can bring tears to my eyes
each and every time I try
getting up to stand
on my own two feet
this is a very humbling
state of affairs
for a man
who has always
considered himself
to be
rightly or wrongly
something of an athlete

I make this confession
not just for the benefit of my soul
but in order to
better understand why?


Is it because
I think that I have some
special mission in life
that requires that I
persevere against all odds?

Is it because
my jewish peasant
fish mongering
gypsy genes
demand survival
for survivals’ own sake
in spite of all the
vagaries of life?

In my career as a
human being
I have killed
many cockroaches
and many mosquitoes
and thousands of flies
and every one of them
wanted to live
struggled to live
to get away
to somehow find a way
to escape
my merciless vengeance
(mostly to no avail)
as I happily scattered their
useless guts
by stomping them to death
or by swatting them with
a folded newspaper or
other improvised implement of
insect destruction

When FrankenStorm came to town
I too instinctively hunkered down
(move over mr. cockroach
I found this spot first!)

I guess
when push finally
comes to shove
we are all just like
our fellow cockroaches
when it comes to
trying to save
our own skins!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Another Winterless Winter?

According to
the U.S. Weather Bureau
the coming winter of 2012
has been cancelled
until further notice
called on account of
global warming
by mother nature
(yes, another winterless winter!
just like the one we had last year!)

No amount of appeals to
pray for snow
will avail and
all of the
ski resorts and
bed and breakfast owners
who depend on
pristine blankets of
fresh fallen snow
to attract the
bushels of
winter tourist dollars
that keep hundreds
of service industry workers
off the unemployment
compensation rolls
had better find new
streams of income
(at least for what was
once known as
the usual winter season)
i.e. paintball firing ranges
mediation and yoga retreat centers
free range chicken farms?

Another winterless winter
means spring like temperatures
in mid- january and
mid february
cherry blossoms at yuletide
bears and other species
foraging in backyard trash cans
for sustenance
since hibernation cycles
will have been
prematurely aborted
flocks of duck and geese will forgo
their usual migratory flights
(why bother?)
purveyors of
snow shovels and snow blowers
and  winter outfitters
and winter clothing outlets
will see their
winter inventories
remain unsold
flies and scores of
other insects will
breed in record numbers
their life cycles
accelerated by
milder temperatures and
the rotting foliage
exposed by the melting
permafrost that doesn’t refreeze
cold and flu viruses
will flourish
with no cold weather to
check their spread
vacationers who usually
go south for the winter
will stay at home
glad to save money
on heating bills and
other seasonal expenses
(hey, I could get used to this
they will say)
while monsoons rage
in other less fortunate
parts of the world
as droughts and
forest fires and
crop failures
caused by the lack
of the usual winter runoff
will result in water shortages
and empty reservoirs
even as the melting ice caps
raise the ocean levels
swamping island nations
around the globe!

Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year!
(Honey, would you mind
switching on the AC?
It’s getting rather warm
in here!)

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Do We Love War So Much?

Why do we love war
as much as we do?

Why are mothers and fathers
so willing to sacrifice
their only begotten children
to the idols of war
in exchange for a
brown envelope
with a government seal
and a folded flag
and a grave in
Arlington cemetery
and a burial
with full military honors
perhaps even with
a six gun salute?

Is all that
a fair exchange
for the laughter of children
for all the hugs and kisses
and other signs of affection
that only children can provide?

Does all the pomp and ceremony
make up for all of the many
missed bed time stories
the missed bed time baths
and snuggly PJs
the missed nightly prayers of
now I lay me down to sleep?

Do the pictures of our children
dressed in military uniform
(that now adorn so many
mantels and shelves in
now empty bedrooms)
somehow compensate
for the loss of youngsters
who will never be born
for all the lost grandchildren
who will never
know the joys of
asking for more
cookies and milk
for just one more
book to be read
for just one more
crayon drawing
to be finished?

Will the box filled
with ribbons and medals
and the walls decorated
with military citations
naming brave deeds performed
in so many different
foreign lands and
foreign battlefields
make up for the lost
sand lot baseball games
the skinned knees and
bruised elbows that
require a mother’s kisses
to help them heal?

Now who will run
to the door shouting
Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!
after a long day at the office
and a miserable home bound commute
through miles of stop and go traffic?

And what is to become of those
who return home
with broken bodies and
broken spirits
no longer the
healthy athletes
who marched off to war
with the blessings of
parents and teachers
ministers and priests
girl friends and boy friends
left behind
promising to write letters
every single day?

Wouldn’t it have been better
just for once
for all of us
to have been able to say
no to war?

Wouldn’t it have been better
To be able to say
just for once that
no you cannot have
my precious child
my precious flesh and blood
to send to the killing fields
of foreign lands
just to assure
the uninterrupted
flow of sweet crude oil
and the flow of war profits
into the coffers of some of
the most corrupt
corporations on earth?

Or does the sound of the bugle
and the drumbeat of the war drums
still stir our blood enough
to make us
pump out our chests
with national pride
and patriotic fervor
at enemies real or imagined
who need to be taught a lesson that
they (and we) shall never forget?

How many more villages
must we be willing to destroy
in order to save them?
And when we are done
who will be left
to save us
from ourselves?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012


I think of you as patchouli
and gardenia
and roses
and musk
and lilac
and gardenia again

philadelphia, pa. 2012

Personal FX

Prior to actual retirement
I’ve had to
go through
my own personal effects
to clean out my cubicle at work

I have found this task
although necessary
to be daunting
to say the least
and not at all
what I expected
it to be

The feelings
are difficult to describe
and to sort out
I have been describing
the feelings to friends
as being like
a near death experience
or at least
as close to one
as can be had
without actually
being at death’s door

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rave Review

The poems of Jack Markowitz are clear-eyed, witty and honest.
Their presence in my life has been uplifting.
Slowly with much effort I can still find the truth about the reality of the American Empire, sifting through mountains of propaganda and the vastness of trivia that permeates television, newspapers, magazines and the internet. So the occasional arrival of one of Jack's poems has the benefit of lightening my day and bringing a little joy into my life.
Thank you Jack, and congratulations on your fresh, wise voice.

Doug Wilson

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


After 30 plus years
As a front line social worker
in child protective services
my planned date of
formal retirement is
scheduled for the
29th of December, 2012

According to the ancient
Mayan calendar
the formal end of the world
is predicted to occur on the
21st of December, 2012

Just my luck!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

For Immediate Release

Poet, Wise Student of History, Creates Hope From Out Of History’s Pandora’s Box Jack Henry Markowitz, with wit, analytic depth, and filmic poetry has written an unforgettable version of the truth. 

PHILADELPHIA – With the publication of Pandora’s Box – New Collected Poems author Jack Henry Markowitz presents a collection of his more recently written poems. This new volume can be viewed as a book end to his prior collection Please Ask, Do Tell – The Collected Poems which represents a collection of some of his favorite poems that were written over a span of 40 years. Greatly influenced by the movies, the author often turns a satiric camera eye on the details of everyday life, in effect translating the film process into image or narrative within the confines of rhyme and meter. In this collection of poems treating harsh, heroic or epic events in American history and American life, Jack Markowitz puts this honed talent to good use – the details of history and commonplace realities come alive as in the harsh winter in Valley Forge or a school sock hop dance attended by prepubescent fifth graders, where everything is treated with a wiser and therefore more comic eye. (Men in combat or on the field often have recourse to gallows or raw humor to survive the harshest conditions; the school sock hop dance evokes memories of rashes on necks unaccustomed to buttoned up collars.) In addition, Markowitz treats his readers with unique visions of truth – using voices of characters real or fictitious, or even his own, to flesh out these visions into a sublime though cynical view of history as something that ordinary people must live through patiently (not only to survive it, but to understand it in the end, in the perspective of regret tempered by acceptance). This is Markowitz’s most deep and telling message throughout this collection. Heroes and famous men do not survive history, they become trapped in it. It is Eliot’s unimportant lord who influences events in a little way behind the scenes who is the most likely survivor of both tumultuous strife and the judgment of history. Jack Henry Markowitz survives both in flying colors before taps, in advance of the angels who will trumpet the Second Coming and let’s out everything from the Pandora’s Box of history’s rusted weaponry, dread vengeance, long-hidden poisons, dry dynamite – all negated by hope for the future for the dysfunctional but surviving American nation. For more information on this book, interested parties may log on to About the Author Jack Henry Markowitz, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, grew up in a magical time when Coney Island was still thought of as the entertainment capital of the world – a time when the Brooklyn Dodgers still played at Ebbets Field and millions of people came to visit the fabled beaches and boardwalk, Steeplechase Park, Parachute Jump, Cyclone Roller Coaster and Nathan’s Famous. The author resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he continues to work and write. Pandora's Box* by Jack Henry Markowitz New Collected Poems To request a complimentary paperback review copy, contact the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x. 7879. To purchase copies of the book for resale, please fax Xlibris at (610) 915-0294 or call (888) 795-4274 x. 7879. For more information, contact Xlibris at (888) 795-4274 or on the web at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beach Ocean Horizon Sky


crashing waves
bubbles in the sand
piper birds
dodging in and out
along the shore line
looking for
and finding
horseshoe crab eggs

setting sun

one day’s over
another's just begun

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

These Days

These days
I am drowning
in unwritten
movie dialogue

These days
my life has become
a silent film
like a still life
etched on a
fading copper plate

My arms are aching
for grand children
left unhugged

Today is
Sam’s third birthday
and I am not there

I send presents
but that is no
for scooping him
up in my arms
and hugging him tight
smelling the scent
of his hair
holding him close
to my chest
grandfather and

All I get are

Pictures of missed birthdays
Pictures of missed family outings
Pictures sans moi

Pictures are nice
but they are not enough
not by a long shot

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Like A Bad Dream

Last night
I dared to dream
about your father

I conjured him up
from the depths of
my little boy soul
from memories
of childhood
run amok
a recall
long suppressed

I saw him
as he once was
in all his glory
muscles rippling
golden haired
blue eyed
more than angry

His blood
was boiling over
the steam pouring
out of his nostrils
like some ancient
greek god of yore
and he was taking out
his anger
his rage
on all of us
on you and me and
your mother
but mostly
and most brutally
on you!

We who saw
We who knew
We who were witnesses
could only
stand by the wayside
helpless and afraid
afraid and helpless
as he began to
decimate his car
having taken umbrage
at some casual remark or
poorly timed jest
or just because
he was pissed off
at the whole world for
a hundred different
reasons of his own

We stood by
and watched
mute witnesses
as he literally
ripped apart
the car
piece by piece
with his bare hands
bloodied though they were
and we who saw
were afraid
(as he wanted us to be)
afraid of what he might yet do
afraid of what might yet happen

He had no right
to do what he did
to you
He had no right
to wreck havoc on
his own baby girl
his own child
his own flesh and blood
He had no right
While the rest of us
could only stand by
like deaf dumb mutes
lest he turn his anger
against us
(as he so often did)
though it was
our sorry fate
to have to love him
for all his failings
(and they were many)

But he had no right
to do what he did to you
in the fullness of your innocence
in the flowering of
your early womanhood
in the hope and splendor
of your youth

And though in my dream
it was the car that
received the brunt of his rage
I somehow knew
that the car
in the dream
was really you
(and all of us)
and all we could do
was to watch and wait
and to bear witness
until the storm
eventually ran its course
and we could once
again be ourselves
knowing full well that
his terrible secrets
had now become
our terrible secrets
adding new bones to
the rattling skeletons
in our already full
collective family closet

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Flies Suck

Flies may have
great agility
but they are
utterly lacking in
I grant that they
may possess
an advantage
in mobility
but that
does not offset
their total lack of

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Of Revolutions And Trees

Revolutions are made
by fools like me
but only
can make
a tree

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

The Home Keys

I learned to touch type
as a student at
Mark Twain Junior High
in Coney Island
New Yawk

We learned to touch type
through rote memory
of the typewriter keys
and through
constant repetition
of rote typing lessons and
mindless exercises

As a gutter snipe
from the low income
housing projects
I resisted my teacher’s
best efforts to teach me
this invaluable skill

At the time
I thought that
learning to type
was a sissy thing to do
a girly thing to do
not a manly thing to do

What earthly good
would learning
to touch type
do for me?
I was never
going to be an
office secretary
not that I had much
of an idea as to what
I could actually
aspire to
given my background  
given my lack of
No need to worry about
getting into college
(couldn’t pay for it
even if I was accepted)
or to some community college
or other
by some fluke

Against my better judgment
and despite being
passive aggressive with my teacher
and being chastised almost daily
for my malfeasance
I actually did manage to learn
the invaluable sissy skill
of touch typing

I pretty much owe
everything I am and
everything I ever hope to be
to my ability to
touch type

I have been touch typing now
for more than fifty years
first on the big clanky
and cumbersome
(check the Smithsonian museum
to see what these ancient
contraptions once looked like)
Then my first electric marvel and
all the way to
the IBM electric
(the Rolls Royce of its day)
and then eventually
even to computers!

I have even used
touch typing to
write this poem
Thank you Mrs. Lewis!
Will wonders never cease?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012


For miles around
as far as the eye
could see
they came
they came to vote
they came to bear witness
they came to make history

I was there too
we were going to elect
the nation’s first
African American President
Barack Hussein Obama
Destiny’s child
thrust up by the forces of
Fate and History
a once in a generation man
to stem the tide
to hold back
the financial avalanche
caused by greedy evil men
in powerful places
whose motto was
let the public be damned!

They came and waited patiently
in lines that stretched around the block
to vote for the man
who promised
Hope and Change

We are the generation
that we have been waiting for!
The Time for Change has Come!
We have come too far to turn back now!
Keep Hope Alive!

Many with their
babies in their arms
waiting their turn
their golden chance
their sterling opportunity
to elect America’s
First Black President

It wasn’t for McCain
that they stood shivering
in the rain
It was Barack Obama who
was the cause of all that drama
It was Barack Hussein Obama
and it will be so again!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012


Bada bing
bada boom
bada bing bang boom
bada boom bang bing
bada bing
bada boom!


Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

The Days Of Awe

The days of awe
just ain’t
what they used to be
ain’t what they used to be
ain’t what they used to be
the days of awe
just ain’t
what they used to be
and neither is
the golden rule

good evening friends!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ever Have The Feeling

Ever have the feeling
that there is something else
that you should be doing
that you are not doing
but that really
needs to be done
and you can't
for the life of you
figure out what
that something is?
I've had that feeling
for quite some time now.

It is very bothersome!
Like a dull aching tooth
Like a pesky mosquito
that keeps buzzing
around my ear
no matter how many times
I try to swat it away
I wonder what that
disquieting something
might be?
Or as
Winnie the Pooh
might say
Oh bother!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Homage To Rosa Parks

Homage To Rosa Parks
(RIP - February 4, 1913,- October 24, 2005)

On December 1, 1955
in Montgomery, Alabama
(The cradle of the Confederacy)
Rosa Parks refused to obey
bus driver James F. Blake’s order
that she give up her seat on the bus
to make way for a white passenger
after the white section was filled
Rosa was arrested
As she was being taken away
she made a fateful vow
From this day forward
I will not get back on the bus
Until Jim Crow gets off!

Rosa’s act of defiance
and the ensuing
Montgomery Bus Boycott
became important symbols
of the modern
Civil Rights Movement

Rosa became an international icon
of resistance to racial segregation
She organized and collaborated
with local and national
civil rights leaders like
Edgar Nixon
President of the local chapter
of the NAACP and
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
a new minister in town who
gained national prominence
in the civil rights movement

I will not get back on the bus
Until Jim Crow gets off!

The bus boycott lasted 381 days
Dozens of public buses stood idle for months
as thousands of the black residents of Montgomery
walked at considerable personal sacrifice
rather than get back on the bus

After the bus transit company
suffered enough financial loss
to cry uncle
the city of Montgomery repealed
the Jim Crow law that required
segregation on public buses
(Eventually the US Supreme Court
ruled that such segregation was
In the end
the Black residents of Montgomery won
and Jim Crow was forced off the bus!

God bless you Rosa Parks!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paradoxical Paradigm

Last night
on the radio
I heard a
news broadcast
on KYW
about a
crazy woman
in Camden
who went
even more crazy
and killed her
two year old son
with a knife before
hacking him to pieces and
then cutting off his head
and placing the severed head
in her freezer
(for safe keeping?)

Sure enough
the next morning
the headline in the
local newspaper screams
the terrible news:
Woman decapitates son,
kills self
This poor 2 year old boy
never had a chance

I know
I know
(as Forest Gump
might say)
crazy is as
crazy does
but that just
does not
cut it this time
(no pun intended)

You see
I suffer from
what is termed
Vicarious Trauma
a technical term
for a condition
very similar to

As a front line
child welfare
social worker for
the past 30 years                                                                      
I have had to suppress
my own personal feelings
in order to
bear witness
to some of  the most
horrendous crimes ever
perpetrated against
innocent children
in a so-called
civilized society

Whenever I hear or
read about another
blood curdling crime
that is committed
against a child
I instantly
get flashbacks of every
child abuse case
that I have ever had
to investigate
during the course of
my child welfare
child protective services

The memories just come
flooding back
triggered by the day’s
recent events

I am not bragging
or looking for pity
I am complaining

I am complaining
I am protesting
the depressing fact
that children in the USA
are still having to
be subjected
to some of  the most
heinous crimes of
abuse and neglect
at the hands
of the very people
who are supposed to
love and protect them
the most

I have voiced these
same complaints
many times before
in various forms and
in many different forums
but my pleadings
always seem
to fall on deaf ears!

When was the last time
that you heard a
Presidential candidate
speak out about the plight
of the 500,000 children
who languish in foster care
from coast to coast
year in and year out
for decade after decade?

In the year of 2012
in the 21st century
why must
forty percent of all
American children
continue to live in poverty?

These are innocent children who
cannot get enough
food to eat
These are children who are
ill housed                  
ill clothed
ill fed
and ill treated
every waking hour of
their lives

I say God bless
all of the first responders
who do try to intervene
in the lives of
abused and neglected children
by risking their own lives
to rush in where angels fear to tread
those who try so valiantly
to save these
smallest of souls
from all the torments of Hell!

After thirty plus years as a
front line social worker
working on behalf of
abused and neglected children
I am more than a little
shell shocked!
I am more than a little
burned out!

As I approach my retirement years
I exhibit all the symptoms of
PTSD and Vicarious Trauma
which have become
a very serious
occupational hazard
for all front line social workers who
have dedicated their careers
and their very lives to
save and
your children and mine from
every kind of conceivable
torture to
body and
that these unfortunate
babies find themselves
having to endure
through absolutely
no fault of their own!

As a consequence
me and thousands of other
social workers  and
first responders
like me
find ourselves
in far too many cases
unable to sleep
or suffering from nightmares
cold sweats and
mental and physical illnesses
of every type and across
every spectrum
that stem directly from
the stresses and vicarious trauma
that we have had to endure
in the course of trying to
aid and protect the most
vulnerable of the most vulnerable!

It is all well and good
to laud us as the
unsung heroes of our

But like the thousands of
war veterans who have
returned to the USA
with torn bodies and
damaged minds
our front line social workers
dedicated civil servants
and devoted first responders
need less
(much less!)
of society’s
empty gestures
and hollow proclamations
(or the tinsel baubles of
medals and parades
as well meaning
as these gestures may be)

What is needed
is a good deal more
(much more!)
of society’s
compassionate treatment
for those of us who
have already
given so much!

Philadelphia, Pa 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Who Am I?

Who am I
these days?
Who are you?
I guess I am still
playing Ginsberg
to your Kerouac
after all these years

Is that a bad thing?
it all depends

When will it
be my turn
to be Jack?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Riding Along In My Automobile

Riding along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel
I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile
my curiosity running wild
crusin’ and playin’ the radio
with no particular place to go –
Lyrics by Chuck Berry

One of the things
on this earth
that I love best of all
is taking my
Beetle Bug VW Betsy
out for a little spin
down the grand ol’ highway
that runs up and down
the East Coast
Route 1
either as far south
or as far north as
I can drive
on a single tank of gas

Betsy loves this old road
which was built before
the more modern
Interstate 95
The trouble with the
Interstate is that
you don’t get to see
nothing but Interstate

If you are proud of where
you happen to live
in these parts
and you want to show off
some of the prettier sights
then you would take scenic
Route 1 and
you would
put down the top
and let the wind
muss up you hair
all the while
breathin in that
good ol’ country air
callin out to the cows
and the horses
as they graze and
chew their cud

You will see the
manicured farms
and the big red barns
and the tall silos filled with
wheat and barley and corn

Pennsylvania has
some of the best
farmland on earth
It is the home of the Amish
and they have been farmers
for generations

Correct me if I am wrong but
I do believe that the Amish have
never planted a crop that has
ever failed to produce
in abundance by the
Grace of God and
with the heavy sweat
of their brows

As you can probably tell
I am more than a little in awe
of the Amish of Lancaster County
Despite their refusal to be modern
they have created some of the most
prosperous farms in America
and we all have benefited from
the bounty that they have
been able to yield from the
good rich earth of Pennsylvania

However a new threat has come
by the name of Fracking
which is a very bad technique for
freeing up reserves of natural gas
by blasting water under such high pressure
that the rocks that holds the gas hostage
are literally exploded under the pressure
The problem is that Fracking
pollutes the fresh water aquifers
that we all depend on for
the fresh water that we drink and
for growing our crops
The greed of the gas companies that
employ this technique seems to
trump the need to conserve and protect
the natural environment that
has produced so much good for a
great many people who depend on
agriculture to earn a living
Fracking along with
mountaintop removal coal mining
are the two greatest threats
to our traditional way of life

Once again
as with the recent
banking crisis of 2008
our peace and prosperity
is being threatened
because of unregulated
corporate greed

If this situation
continues unchecked
for very much longer
there will be
no mountaintops
to marvel at come Autumn
and nothing to see along
Route 1 except
the scarred
denuded landscape and
gas pipe farms
for as far as the eye
can see

We the people
of Pennsylvania
are all up in arms
over this threat
and that includes
the Amish and
the Quakers
(and droves of others
who also want to join
the fight)

I only mention this last part
because when it comes to
fighting the satanic forces of
corporate greed
it doesn’t hurt to know that
when push comes to shove
that we’ve at least got
God and righteousness
on our side!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Eat The Rich

Season to taste

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

I've Tried To Run But I Can No Longer Hide

I’ve tried running
I’ve tried hiding
I’ve tried twisting
and turning
slip sliding
side winding
shim shaming
flim flaming
shilly shallying
side stepping
hot footin
slippin out the back door
talkin a blue streak
speakin out of both
sides of my mouth
talkin with a forked tongue
pissin in the wind
playing possum
playing dead
rolling over in bed
hiding under the bed
pulling the covers
over my head
pulling the wool
over my own eyes
passive aggression
self gratification
every possible explanation

I’ve tried every con
every scam
every dodge
known to man
every ploy
under the sun
only to learn that
I can try to keep
running all that I want
but no matter what
subterfuge I might use
there’s just no way
I can continue to hide

Sooner or later
the truth will
hunt you down
and chase you
up a tree
and that
my friends
(despite all that
I have tried
to do and done)
is precisely what
has happened
to me!

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now am found
I was blind
but now I see!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

The World Is A Flat Onion

Back in the day
when I was a
high school senior
I was given the lead role
in the senior play

Getting this role
was considered to be
an honor
I was okay with it
though I was
not that thrilled
with having to shoulder
all of the responsibility
for the ultimate success
or failure of the show
(especially in front of
my family and

I played the part of
Toby Kwimper in a
play called
Pioneer Go Home!
that was based
on a satirical novel by
Richard P.Powell

The book was also
adapted into
its play format
by Herman Raucher
and then adapted
to a movie version called
Follow That Dream!
starring Elvis Presley

I actually was able
to identify
with the part of Toby
whose family leaves
New Jersey in search
of the American Dream
in a fictional state called
Columbiana that closely
resembles the state of Florida

The Kwimper family
ends up homeless
squatting by the
side of a highway
where a bridge is
being built thereby
outraging local officials
who want the
squatters removed
by any means necessary

This is a long introduction
to bring up a minor part of the
plot where Toby
recites a mock poem entitled
The World Is A Flat Onion
(which was meant to be
a mocking satire
of the Beatniks
especially taking aim at
the so-called Beat generation and
the writings of
Jack Kerouac and
Allen Ginsberg in particular!)

For me reciting the poem
during the play was one
of the highlights of the show

I have never forgotten the words
of the poem
that go like this:
The world is a flat onion
with a bug on either side
no end and no beginning
 just a crawling occupant
to remind us all
that there is someone else
besides ourselves
in this selfish universe!

For whatever reason
these are the only lines from
the play that I can still remember
all these many years later

I often find myself
reciting the words
(soto voce to myself
as a kind of
personal mantra)
especially in times of trouble
as a reminder of better times
when the spot light
was  locked on me
and I was for a brief
moment in time
the prince of center stage
still in the prime
of my youth
and at a time
when I was chock full
of good health
when I still had my moxy
when I was still
at the height of all of my
creative powers and
just chock a block full
of just plain spunk!

Reciting the poem
kind of helps me to
stay balanced

Reciting the words
also helps me to
keep my creative
juices flowing
during the more
difficult times
when I find myself
prone to
drying out and
shriveling up
and in danger of
being blown away
with each and every
passing wind

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Make Hay

Back in the day
When I was a student
In the fifth grade at
John Marshall
Elementary School
In East Hampton, L.I.
I had a good friend
by the name of
Robert Tillinghast
who came from a
long and noble line of
family farmers

(Not me
I came from a
not so long and
hardly noble
line of landless
Romanian peasants
who came to America
mistakenly thinking
that the streets
were lined with
But be that
as it may)

As a class project
each of us had
to be responsible
for growing a
potted plant
(This was intended to
teach us all
the meaning of

In any event
my poor potted plant
was not doing very well
and since I did not
have a so-called
green thumb
I was at a loss
as to what to do to
revive my potted friend’s
health and vitality

I mentioned my plight
to Tillinghast
who gave the plant
a once over
with his seasoned
farmers eyes

Give the plant some
cow manure
he said without hesitation
Cow manure?
The words were unfamiliar
to my city slicker ears
Yep he said
a little crushed
Cow manure
that will do the trick
He even offered
to bring me some
grade A cow dung
from his farm
if I wished

That’d be right friendly of you
I said talking as country
as I could muster
but no need to go
out of your way

No trouble a’ tall
he said
Happy to do it!

True to his word
The very next day
Bob brought
a Dixie cup
worth of
cow dung
to feed to my
ailing plant

Sure enough
a few days later
my potted plant
had perked up
considerably and
seemed to have
a whole new
lease on life
and I received an
A for my
potted plant project

After graduation from
high school
Bob continued to work
on his family’s farm
(as he happily did
until his dying day)

I went off to college
the first graduate
to do so from
East Hampton High!)
to major in
French Lit
and though
I have published
plays and poems
I have never
Bob Tillinghast
and his little
Dixie cup of
cow manure!

And on those
rarified days
when inspiration
escapes my sight
I think back on
Bob T’s
sage advice

There’s nothing like
a little manure
to get things
flowing right!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Memory Of Doris Elaine

With all thy getting
get thee
a heart of wisdom
Proverbs 4:7

Doris Elaine
was one classy dame
whose passing
came far too early
I loved her for
wide brimmed hats
her jaunty air
and all of her unique
that made her seem
so girly

We studied in
Torah class together
and she sometimes
called me
her oracle
But now that she's gone
her chair remains empty
and all of
my memories of her
are now
quite historical

Doris Elaine
was one classy dame
and we will
all miss her dearly
I will always miss her
sense of humor
and her way
of expressing herself
so clearly

Rabbi says
that she was
as ready for death
as anyone
ever can be
He said she gave
the grim reaper
no quarter as
she shasayed off
this mortal coil
with class and style
and her own special
brand of synergy

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Neither Jew Nor Gentile

There is neither Jew nor Gentile
There is neither slave nor free
There is no male and female
For you are all one in 
Christ Jesus
Galatians 3:28

The cattle car
Lurches to a sudden stop
Sunlight pours in
Through the cracks
In the box car’s planking
Packed in
Like sardines
So closely packed
That none
Can sit
Despite hours of
With no water
No food
No place to toilet
Save standing in place
Some have even died
On their feet
Too closely packed
To fall down

We can hear the Germans
Shouting orders and
We can hear the incessant
Of their
German Shepherd dogs
(A most remarkable and loyal breed)

The doors are unlocked
And flung open
And all is sunlight
And dirt
And dust
And we are blinded
By the light

The children are screaming
And who can blame them
For this is no place for children
This is Hell
We all know instinctively
That we have all been sent
To German Hell!

Raus!! Raus!!
Bark the SS guards
All dressed in black
With their death head insignias
Prominently displayed on their hats
Lest we mistake them
For angels of mercy
But we do not mistake them
For we know them only too well
We know who they really are

They have only
One job to do
They are here
To kill as many Jews
As they can
In as short a time
As they can
So we do not mistake them
For angels of mercy

The cars are rapidly emptied
The guard’s cattle prods
Make sure of that
All is chaos and
All is despair
All hope is gone
Last stop
End of the line

Men to the right!
Women and children to the left!
It is called
All baggage
Are to be
Left behind

Some of those
Who are still
Able bodied
Might be
Temporarily spared
Only to be starved and
Worked to death
While the sick and the lame
Are sent directly
To the waiting gas chambers
And to the ever burning ovens

Families are separated
The terrified children
Cling to their mothers
For safety
Except that
There is no safety
To be had

The lines stretch
For as far
As the eye can see

Reads the sign on the iron gate

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

When we were
School chums
Back in the day
As 13 year olds
Mark Twain
Junior High
Was our whole universe
And when we were
Mere whippersnappers
Still wet behind the ears
Little shits
Little snot noses
Snickering at everything
Wise cracking about everything
Telling dirty jokes
Pulling childish pranks
Chasing every girl in a skirt
Telling each other
Mostly bullshit stories
About our sexual prowess and
Conquests and
Exaggerating everything
Would be wise guys
With our hair
Slicked back
And greased to a shine
And combed
In the style of the day
Sides combed straight back
Pompadours puffed high
And pulled forward
So that our hair
Covered our eyes like
Brando and
Elvis and
Frankie Avalon and
Fabian and
Dion and
Bobby Vinton
(They were called
Teenage idols back then!)

Like the teenage heartthrobs
That we idolized
We would wear our
Blue jeans skin tight
With pointed shoes and
Solid colored
T shirts
With the sleeves
Rolled up
Just so
In imitation of
The older boys who
Carried packs of cigarettes
Strategically placed
Over their bulging
Tattooed biceps

We never dreamed
That we would ever
Grow old
Or that we would one day
Become just like
The old foggies
Who we used to laugh at
And make fun of
The old farts
With their walkers and canes
Their bent bodies and
Wrinkled faces
Smelling like camphor balls
The women wearing their
Dark brown stockings
Rolled up at the ankles
The men with their
Piss stained pants
Yellow teeth and
Yellow finger nails
Shuffling along the boardwalk
Sitting on the wooden benches
Feeding the pigeons
Talking non stop in
Their native tongues
(You name it)

And how we would mock them
And make fun of them
Never showing pity
Never feeling compassion
Never caring or even wanting
To try
To understand
(Like I said
We were little shits
And proud of it!)

At the time
There was a
Famous commercial
That ran incessantly
And radio
For a product called
Life Alert
The commercial
Would feature
An old woman
Who had fallen
And who could not
Get up off the floor
Hence the catch phrase
Help me!
I’ve fallen and
I can’t get up!

How we would howl
With derisive laughter
Every time we did our
Lame imitations
Of the commercial
Repeating the catch phrase
Over and over
Each time with as much
Mocking and derision
As we could muster!

Fast forward some
Sixty years later
And that very same
Life Alert commercial
Continues to run!
Except that
This time around
The target audience
Happens to be me
And all the other
Little shits
Of my generation
Who have
Now grown old and
Who are
For the most part
Scared shitless
Of one day falling
With no one around
To hear our pleas for help!

I believe this is
What is meant
When people talk about
Something that is called
Poetic justice

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Last Roll To Oneonta

Let Justice be done
though the heavens fall!
(Anonymous Latin proverb-
Fiat justitia ruat caelum!)

If you are a red blooded
American male
in the prime of your life
(your early twenties)
and you made
the colossal mistake
of your life
in choosing to attend
an all male
liberal arts college
in upstate New York
(Hamilton College
circa 1965- 1969)
you will do desperate things
to search out
female companionship
in the midst of
a ferociously snowy
and frigidly cold
Mohawk valley winter

Like sailors
too long at sea
I and several of my
TKE fraternity brothers
set out one
particularly forlorn
February weekend
on an epic journey
to the SUNY campus
at Oneonta
which was rumored
to be chock full
of the most sexy and
nursing students
this side of the
Continental divide
Like the intrepid
explorers of yore
Scott and Shackerton
Lewis and Clark
Aldrin and Armstrong
four of us
piled into
David Obermeyer’s
Volkswagen Beetle
and set off
due north
to reach
the nirvana of
female pulchritude
or to die trying!

Fueled by our
raging hormones
and desperate need
for some kind of
sexual gratification
(blue balls is a bonafide
medical condition that
can be referenced in the
Physicians Desk Reference
or at least
so my pre-med
dormitory roommate
Mickey O’Rourke
led us to believe)
we drove through harrowing
 road conditions and all kinds of
inclement weather
freezing temperatures
(Obermeyer’s heater
was out of commission!)
hours of
sleep deprivation
we fearlessly pushed on
encouraging each other
by recounting
 with embellishments
the already
wildly exaggerated
stories that
other schoolmates
had spun regarding the
sexual prowess and
alleged insatiable
sexual appetites
of the good
though obviously
much maligned
female vixens of
SUNY Oneonta

as luck would have it
just as we were
finally approaching
the outskirts of
Female Valhalla
our intrepid driver
David Obermeyer
turned around to inform
his back seat passengers
(me and fellow TKE brother
 James Randolph)
that unfortunately
due to circumstances
beyond his control
we in all likelihood
were not going to be able
to negotiate
the upcoming
sharp curve
that was just coming up
just ahead of us!

And true to his word
in what had to be
a little less than
several hair raising
split seconds!
we soon felt ourselves
becoming airborne
as the VW Bug
defied the pull of gravity
by seeming to have
sprouted wings
lifting us skyward
as the road beneath us
took an entirely
different direction!

With the clarity of
twenty twenty hindsight
I distinctly remember
turning to Jim Randolph
and saying something
to the effect of
well at least
we are making good time!
as the flying VW
continued to gain
altitude and air speed

After what seemed to be
an eternity
the VW ultimately
slammed into the ground
(actually a drainage ditch
so that the roof of the car
was now at ground level!)
none of us were
actually injured
except for
the sense of acute
that comes with having
lost control of one’s
and failing to maintain
contact with the road
that we were endeavoring
to follow!

We sat motionless for
several minutes as
a state highway patrol car
pulled over to the
side of the road
lights flashing and
siren still wailing

The state trooper
(a solidly built
impeccably uniformed
no nonsense kind of chap)
slowly made his way
down the embankment
to the scene of the

If you gentlemen
will kindly step out of
your vehicle and
be so kind as to
show me your
license and registration
I will start taking
copious notes
as I listen to you
try to explain
just what in hell
you all think that
you are doing!

Obermeyer did his best
to explain to the
skeptical trooper
the sequence of events
that led to our car
becoming airborne
at the critical
moment that the
road took that most
unfortunate right hand turn

Needless to say
the incredulous trooper
wasn’t buying
any of it
and he began
writing a slew
of tickets
beginning with
Failure to keep right!
(Not to mention
failure to remain at
ground level
while driving on
a state highway!)
(As we had accomplished
this bit of daring do
without benefit of
alcoholic beverage we
fortunately managed
to avoid
a DUI charge!)

But be that as it may
After we had managed
to have the VW
extricated from the
drainage ditch
we held a tribal gathering
of the elders
to try to decide whether to
abandon our quest for
female companionship
or whether to continue
pushing on ahead
to cove r the last few
remaining miles
to the promised land of
SUNY Oneonta!

Hells bells!
had we come this far
only to turn tail and run
at the first sign of
Were we the fearless and
determined men of TKE
that we thought ourselves to be
or were we merely
subject rodents in some
sort of bizarre cosmic
psychological experiment?

Back inside the very
banged up yet still
road worthy Beetle
Obermeyer switched on the radio
and turned up the booming
hard rock music of the hit tune
So Glad We Made It!
(Lyrics by the Spencer Davis Group)
We took this as a sign
from Providence!
The decision had been made for us!
It was on to Oneonta!

Pucker up
you lasciviously sexy
student nurses
of SUNY Oneonta and
Fear not for
The horny blue balled
men of TKE
are on the way!

(Neither snow
nor rain
nor heat
nor gloom of night
stays these
from completion of
their appointed rounds!)
U.S. Postal Services Creed

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

The French New Wave Or Two Or Three Things That I Know About Myself

The Cinema art movement
Known around the world as
The "French New Wave”
Is best known
For its stylistic innovations
that challenged the conventions
of Hollywood cinema,
Jean Luc Godard
 is universally recognized
as the most audacious,
as well as the
most influential of
the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.

Anyone can make movies!
Is perhaps the single
most important lesson
to be learned from the
French New Wave
just ask
Jean Luc Godard
Francois Truffaut
Alain Resnais
Jacques Rivette and
Claude Chabrol

Anyone can make movies!
Even me!
Even you!
For instance
by New Wave standards
Each and every
one of my poems
could be viewed
as a potential
scenario for a film!
(In this regard
I have potential
scenarios for
hundreds of movies!
What freedom!)

Godard has said that
that all that one needs
to make a film is a
girl and a gun!
It was Godard
who made                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Jean Paul Belmondo and
Jean Seberg
into internationally acclaimed
film stars
in an unpretentious movie
called Breathless (1959)

I once had the
honor and pleasure of
meeting Jean-Luc
at a Paris street demonstration
during the student riots of
May 1968
(I even have
the photos to prove it)

Godard was standing next to
his protégé
Jean Pierre Leaud
in the Place du Lion
(at metro stop
eyeing me suspiciously
for having the audacity to
be taking his photograph
(Quite naturally!
After all
he suspected me
of being
an agent of the
French Secret Police!)

I was not
Instead I was a student
trying to learn to speak French
at the Sorbonne
(All my papers were in order)
But during those troubling times
everyone was suspicious of
everyone else

(It was a wartime
situation after all!)

How exciting it was for me
at the age of twenty
in the middle of
a bonafide revolution
taking part and yet
not taking part
aware and yet
not aware
It was all so intoxicating!
What a heady brew!
Street drama!
Famous celebrities!
The intellectual and cultural elites
of Paris and all the rest of Europe
joining forces
to confront the
right wing forces of
the fascist leaning regime of
Gen. Charles DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic!

Gen. DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic
had all but
exhausted itself
having outlived
its own usefulness
and the people
(led by the students and
the labor unions)
demanded change!

They wanted their
freedoms restored!
They wanted to breathe freely!
To live freely!
To express themselves freely!

In the end
It was DeGaulle’s government
that was forced to capitulate
to the demands of the
street demonstrators or else
France would have come apart
in an all out civil war
(And there I was!
Right smack
in the middle of
it all!
Taking notes!
Bearing witness!)

It was without a doubt
the single most formative
experience of my life!
I had just turned 21!

How you gonna 
keep ‘em down
on the farm
after they’ve seen Paris?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Post Script:
Jean-Luc Godard (born 3 December 1930) is a Franco-Swiss filmmaker and a leading member of the "French New Wave”. Known for stylistic innovations that challenged the conventions of Hollywood cinema, he is universally recognized as the most audacious, radical, as well as the most influential of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers. His work reflects a fervent knowledge of film history, a comprehensive understanding of existential and Marxist philosophy, and a profound insight into the fragility of human relationships.
Godard’s method of directing A Bout de Souffle was even more radical than his technical innovations. Much to the producer Beauregard’s disapproval, he often only filmed for a couple of hours a day. Sometimes, when lacking the necessary inspiration, he would cancel the day’s filming altogether. Early on in the shoot, he discarded the screenplay he had written and decided to write the dialogue day by day as the production went along. The actors found this procedure strange and sometimes forgot their lines, however, since the soundtrack was to be post-synchronized later, when the actor’s were lost for words, Godard would call out their lines to them from behind the camera. For Godard the act of making a film was as much a part of its meaning as its content and style. He felt a film reflected the conditions under which it was made and that a film’s technique was the method by which a director made a film personal.
Godard’s unorthodox methods continued in the editing suite. His first cut of À bout de souffle was two-and-a-half hours long but Beauregard had required he deliver a ninety-minute film. Rather than cutting out whole scenes, he decided to cut within scenes, even within shots. This use of deliberate jump cuts was unheard of in professional filmmaking where edits were designed to be as seamless as possible. He also cut between shots from intentionally disorienting angles that broke all the traditional rules of continuity. By deliberately appearing amateurish Godard drew attention to the conventions of classic cinema, revealing them for what they were, merely conventions.
It wasn’t only in the montage of images that Godard expressed his personality, but also through the rich depth of references to cinema and literature. À Bout de Souffle abounded with quotations of movies by directors such as Samuel Fuller, Joseph H. Lewis, Otto Preminger and any number of classic film noirs. The film is even dedicated to Monogram Films, an American “B-movie” studio. There were also quotations and references to writers such as Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, and Louis Aragon, as well as painters like Picasso, Renoir and Klee.

Monday, July 30, 2012

We Were All Supposed To Be Friends

We were all
Supposed to be
The best of friends
Just one big
Happy family
The Markfields and the Weinsteins
Next door neighbors
And we were
(At least
For a bit)

Our fathers
(Mr. Bernard Weinstein
And my foster father/brother
Irwin Markfield)
Were business partners
And distant cousins by marriage
And together they built
a thriving CPA business

We even lived in
Identical ranch houses
With very large
Living room windows
(Known as
Picture windows
At the time)
All of us were
Jews and

Pioneers because
We were among
The first Jewish families
To colonize the
East End of Long Island
(Prior to that
(The East Enders of that era,
The old money types,
Were mortified that a flood
Of new money types from
You know where,
Were going to flood
This last citadel of
New England blue bloods
And turn the whole place into
Coney Hampton!)

Well the blue bloods were right!
What’s the world coming to
When the likes of us
Could show up
To (gasp!) shop on main street
And to (gasp!) buy homes that were
Formerly owned by
WASP’s only
(Thereby contaminating their
Lily white world)
They may not
Have put on white sheets with
Pointy hats to burn crosses on
Our front lawns
But I do distinctly remember
The No Coney Hampton signs
And the no Jews allowed
Restricted policies of the
Private country clubs
But I digress

I spent as much time
Playing and eating at
The Weinstein’s house
As I did at my own
We kids played
Ping Pong
Lawn croquet
Chinese checkers
And especially

(The board game of
Was a blood sport
The way we played it!)

And Mrs. Weinstein
Always put out
Plenty of treats
For us kids to eat
(Just something
To nosh on
As she would say)
(More treats than we
Ever had at home
Where extra helpings of
Sweets were always taboo)
(And they weren’t
Just any sweets
They were the Jewish kind
With sesame and halvah
And marzipan
And dried fruits
 Of all kinds)

However this idyllic
State of affairs
Was not destined to last
When the two senior
Partners in the firm
Had a falling out over
Who knows what
(We kids were never told
The reasons why
We were all supposed
To be kissin cousins one day
And the Hatfield’s
And the McCoy’s the next!).

I miss those early times
I miss the easy camaraderie
The proximity of good friends
The sharing of intimacies

The discoveries of adolescence
The silly crushes and feuds
The whispered secrets
The promises to be
Best buds forever

The senior partners
Never did reconcile
And alas
Neither did we
With the passage
Of enough time
We all eventually
Grew up
And we all went
Our separate ways

And the big
Weeping Willow
Tree that had stood for decades
In our backyard  is gone as well

That was
The big Weeping Willow
Where I carved
My initials and a big heart
With the initials of the
Weinstein’s oldest daughter

Sure it hurts to remember
These things
And it does make me sad
That things turned out
The way that they did

Whenever I drive by
The old homestead these days
I can still hear the shouts
Of children playing
And ping pong
Lawn croquet
Two hand touch

We’ve all just become
Merely ghostly shadows of
Our former selves

One of these days
I’m going to get
Out of my car
And knock on the
Weinstein’s front door

Hello Mrs. Weinstein
Do you think
It would be okay
If Elaine
Could come out
To play?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012


Thursday, July 26, 2012

When To Start Worrying

Scientists tell us that
our sun will burn
itself out
three billion years
from now
give or take

When should
we begin
to start
to worry?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Blank Paper

Blank paper
Is like an unused
Ski slope
At some
Pocono resort
As it is being covered
With a new coating of
Freshly minted powder

Blank paper is
It is as pure
As the driven snow
It is without blemish
It is virtuous
It is without sin
It is a symbol of
All that is good
It is full of valor
It is clean
It is noble
It is untrammeled
Lacking in
Evil intention
It is funky
It is seductive
It is inviting
It is a tabla rasa

Blank paper is like
A new beginning
It is a fresh start
It is a second chance
It is a chance
For redemption
For new hope
For rebirth
For reincarnation
For a new explanation
For an opportunity to
Rectify past mistakes

Blank paper
Is an opportunity for
For healing
For counseling
For therapy

Blank paper
Offers a way out of
Darkness and despair
It offers a chance
For salvation
For eternal life

Blank paper
Is an opportunity for
For creativity
For respite
For sanctuary
For restoration of the
Body and
For renewal

Blank paper
Does not talk back
Does not create
Or ferment
Dissention or
It does not
Back stab or
Double cross
It does not act
It does not dissemble or
There is no
No ego
No false posturing

Blank paper
Provides wiggle room
And room to maneuver
One last chance to
Score the game winning goal
It is an opportunity to
Try something new
To think outside the box

Blank paper
Is a sacred trust
An oath
The opportunity to
Do no harm
It is a freshly planted
Bed of roses

Blank paper
Is like a
Philadelphia cheese steak hoagie
With all the trimmings!

Battle stations!
Batter up!
All hands on deck!
Batten down the hatches!
Damn the torpedoes!
Full steam ahead!

The main course is
About to be served!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monsieur Hamlin And Moi

Frank Hamlin
was my old French prof
the professor whom
I admired the most

We would often
walk together
side by side
either on the way to class
or afterwards
on the way
back home

He was my mentor
my teacher
my guiding light
my Rock of Gibraltar
at a time
when it seemed and felt
as if the whole world
was coming undone

He walked with a limp
either from birth or
because of advancing old age
though he never
seemed old to me
Rather, he seemed to be timeless
like father time himself
a permanent fixture of
the college environment
as indigenous as the ivy
on the dolomite dormitory walls

And as we walked
we would talk

We spoke about poetry
(French of course)
and about philosophy and
about life in general
with a capital L

He was the father of five girls
who all loved and adored him
His wife was
an expat from Algeria
known in those days as a
Pied Noir
a pejorative term
for expats from
French Algeria
who were forced to
leave the country
of their birth
after Algeria
was granted independence
after a long
bloody and drawn out
civil war
that nearly tore
both countries apart

They first met in Paris
when Frank was
attending post grad studies
at the Sorbonne
and they were soon married

Frank had a missionary’s zeal
when it came to
the welfare of his students
He believed that the world
well educated
men and women
if freedom and
were to survive and

He was determined
that I not waste
the opportunity
that I had been granted
to receive a top flight
Hamilton College education

I was expected to be a
Hamilton gentleman
in every sense of the word
clean in mind
body and

Though I was born a Jew
(and proud of it!)
Frank never tired
of discussing the
virtues of
(the New England Protestant
brand of course!)
as we discussed
the various French writers
who espoused
the Christian
(mostly Catholic)
world view:
Paul Claudel
George Bernanos
Francois Mauriac
Julien Green
Blaise Pascal
Andre Malraux

Then one day
(as I neared graduation
and hence
the inevitable parting
of ways)
at the end of one of these
particularly memorable
marathon walking lectures
Frank turned to me and said:

And always remember Jacques
(my name in French)
Life is short
and the last act
is always 

He continued:
Base your life
on Religion
he said
 quel religion!”

And as we
parted company
for what may
well have been
the very last time
I waved to him
as he waved back
from his front porch
before wiping his feet
on the well worn
welcome mat
before entering his home
and accepting
the warm embrace
of his wife of forty years

And in the distance
came the peeling
of church bells
calling the faithful
to evening prayers
while the scent
of burning
autumn leaves
hung heavily
in the still
night air

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012