February 2021

About Poemography

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of my Poem-A-Day Project, I am reprising my daily poetry challenge in 2021.

Every day this year—from January 1st until the 31st of December—I will create a new poem inspired by whatever moves me at the moment I sit down to compose that day's poem, publishing them here with subscription-free access for all.  

Every Tuesday throughout the year, I will write and publish one bonus poem that will be available exclusively to my Patrons on Patreon.

In 2022, I will publish a book of my complete poems, spanning more than 40 years of poetry writing. The complete collection of poems will be published in a limited edition hardbound book available for purchase. As an added feature, I'm considering releasing some of the poems in this collection as spoken word recordings by a variety of special guest readers. Enjoy the year!

28FEB21

Ziz (זיז‎)

Wings large enough to blot out the sun

Casting shadows over barren wastelands

Standing tall where green forests once stood

Drinking from the vastness of blue ocean waters

Flying is a lonely affair in skies void of matter

Tumid clouds harboring droplets and crystals

Indolent stars drifting aimlessly in their orbits

Faint moons and planets spinning recklessly

And just as I closed my eyes for the last time

A familiar voice called to me from the valley

Blowing in an on a sweetly fragrant breeze

Whispering words that only I could decipher

I woke up to find the apparition had gone

What remained was a single silken feather

A fragment of love's physical embodiment

That would nourish us for a thousand lifetimes

27FEB21

Competitive Spirit

Passed many afternoons at the Horwich JCC

Pick-up games on sleek squeaky wood floors

I was the kid that nobody ever picked

Awkward in my Stan Smiths

Watching the Myers brothers

Before I even knew who they were

Yeshiva bochers with their dangling tzitzis

Wondering where the lone black kid came from

My parents signed me up for winter sports camp

A sensible remedy for my adolescent angst

The guy behind the locker room desk

Stuck his hand in my shorts

The fetid stench of sweat

Agressive masculine maneuvers

Hips bumping high five skin slapping

The swoosh of the day's final three-point shot

26FEB21

Hope

A glimmer of sunlight is all it takes to foster hope

Every ray of glowing radiant light beams elation

Blades of verdant grass burst from cool dewy soil

 Stalks wave buttery buds in the gentle morning air

You arrived with your hippy bag and bare feet

Fuchsia-painted nails and patchouli scented skin

Long brown flowing hair shimmering silken sparks

Fleshy red lips plump like succulent summer berries

We sat beneath a beautiful tree as dusk drew near

You took me by the hand and revealed your dream

Your eyes grew wide as you spoke about the river

How it flowed so gently beside the house on the hill

Then a vision came to me of you floating in the air

Soaring above the meadow under deep blue skies

I finally understood what it meant to truly love you

In the fleeting instant between hope and providence

 

25FEB21

A Few Extra Pounds

I was listening to Julie Holland​

Talking about Ecstasy and PTSD

How the global pandemic was

Stifling our emotional wellbeing

I was drowning myself in the bath

Like I do almost every single night

Washing away the anxiety and mire

Holding my breath under soapy water

I was thinking about a few extra pounds

The ones gathering around my middle

Hampering my tying shoelaces and such

Making my breathing a bit more labored

I was letting it get to me in so many ways

Manifesting maladies, begetting contempt

I've simply removed the battery from the scale

Contemplating sunny skies and better days ahead

24FEB21

In These Times

Living in a global pandemic

Times of war and strife

Or natural disasters

All part of life

In these times

Certainties are few

The only true constant

The constant truth of you

We're told what to think

And told what to feel

Times are confusing

Bluntly surreal

But you're here

Appeasing the fray

Making life bearable

Turning dark nights into day

23FEB21

Early to Rise

My grandparents never learned how to drive

Depended their whole lives on the kindness of others

Trips to the supermarket, the beauty parlor, doctor visits

A cross-country trip with grandpa to deliver Lill Stein's car

At times I felt my mother's burden having stayed behind

She could have followed in her sister's footsteps out west

I often think about how different our lives might have been

But she stayed back in Chicago, the ever-faithful daughter

I got my license at 16, happy to drive them here and there

Grandmother wasn't keen getting into my 1970 Camaro

The heavy doors too low to the ground and bucket seats

But Bernie and me we lit up the town in my sporty ride

That winter in Florida remains a most cherished memory

Driving my grandparents around to visit their old friends

Last night in Miami I got to choose a hotel on the beach

Early to rise to witness the most tender thing I'd ever seen

22FEB21

Placid Water Ripples

How I wish I could teach my restless mind a thing or two

To slow down and evanesce like placid water ripples

Move from thought to thought with a calming ease

Sway gently like a sapling dancing with the wind

But the sun doesn't cast away the storm clouds

It only dries the rain that has fallen from within

Lightning illuminates the skies for but an instant

Thunder roars but quickly gives way to silence

There was a tree there at Indian Boundary Park

We would sit on either side of its majestic trunk

Taking turns singing lyrics of our favorite songs

Laughing at forgotten lines and made up words

 

Those are the bygone days I long for the most

Innocence and the glorious wonder of our youth

The warmth of your hands and soft tender kisses

Soothing my unease and making life worth living

21FEB21

The Cusp of Spring

The air was different today, fresh, clean and pure

The sky a different blue, clouds wispy and white

Sunshine warming, welcoming, radiant and bright

A yellow butterfly flew merrily along the canal bank 

I taught my youngest daughter how to ride her bicycle

Truth is she really learned how to do it all by herself

I simply coached her along while snapping photos

Told her it would take three hours, she did it in one

My other two girls sat on a blanket at the water's edge

Another daughter on FaceTime from her home in Spain

The cusp of spring brings such joy and immense delight

Brings hope of a season of rebirth and new possibilities

All seemed well with the world for those fleeting moments

Until I came to recall all that was missing and longed for

People and places that no longer remembered my name

Those who faded away into a metamorphosis of time  

 

20FEB21

The Home We Made

I met the new neighbors this afternoon

A young couple starting out on their own

Leaving the nest and security of their father's house

Taking the plunge of cohabitation and mortgage payments

I remember our first house on calle Pintor Ricardo Verde

You'd been walking the dog early on Sunday morning

Saw the woman hanging the for sale sign in the window

Asked her kindly to take it down you'd buy it sight unseen

 

We spent the next few months making our new home

Gutting the place from floor to ceiling nothing untouched

Every detail executed with meticulous care and calculation

Tile, woodwork, windows, doors, paint and cupboards 

I wonder if you remember our first night in that house

Having dinner with our children outside on the terrace

The Mediterranean gently breathing her wispy winds

 Lulling us to sleep in the serenity of the home we made

19FEB21

Beauty Operators

My grandmother went to a beauty parlor

Every Saturday morning at eleven o'clock

After making me fried matzoh for breakfast

And cleaning the house from top to bottom

The owners were two sisters, Helen and Sophie

Cheery slender mustardy blonde-haired women

Who grandma referred to as beauty operators

I never remembered which woman was which

 

One of the sisters lived on California near Foster 

We'd occasionally go to her house for some reason

Perhaps to drop something off or pick something up

Either way I'd always get a lollypop or a Baby Ruth

She would take the 84 bus down Peterson Avenue

Mom would pick her up in her red Volare at one

Then lunch at What's Cooking in Lincoln Village

My Saturday child's life cabbage soup adventure

18FEB21

Arriving Departures

It seems I'm always coming and going

Life as an always changing adventure

Never-ending arrivals and departures

Roads leading nowhere and everywhere

I've packed my bag a hundred times

Walked alone in the Paris summer rain

Skimmed stones on the shore of the Mersey

Drowned my sorrows in the river bank park

There were moments of fear and others of joy

The sound of the brook beneath the old mill house

Your grandmother's preserves aging on dusty shelves

The soft afternoon breeze caressing me to sleep

How I long to bask in your radiant warmth

Sit in the shade of the ficus trees in La Glorieta

Taste the lingering sweetness of fruits of the vine

Travel to the ends of the world in one deep breath

17FEB21

Birds of a Feather

It was nice to hear your voice again

Familiar like the sound of falling rain

You called to ask a particular favor

To write to your boyfriend in Spain

Some guy you think you're in love with

Who knows about our monthlong fling

It happened so very many years ago

 Funny that he thinks we're still a thing

If I understood your request correctly

You wanted me set the record straight

That nothing romantic between us

Has occurred since before 2008

 

Starting to write what you asked me to write

I began conjuring up a thought in my head

Seeing how birds of a feather flock together

I decided to fall in love with you again instead 

16FEB21

Safe Harbor

There were moments of overwhelming joy

When for the first time in my life I felt at peace

Where what surrounded me were more than walls

A safe harbor and a home I could finally call my own

Then came the thunderclouds and angry tempest

Blew the walls down to their very foundation

When the storm passed and the sun shone anew

Nothing remained but stillness and shadows

I sat on tree stump looking out over the horizon

Wondering where the storm would touch down next

All I heard was my heart beating in the silence

Though too softly to convince me I was still alive

 

With no signs of life no sea birds or dolphins

My skin burning in the sun's unforgiving rays

I saw you wading in the shallow foamy water

Calling out to me as the tide swept you out to sea 

15FEB21

North Bissell Street

I was only half serious inviting you to Chicago

Not believing you'd come or stay a lifetime

You arrived on the day of your 24th birthday

On a bitter cold and blustery winter's evening

We drove from the airport to a cozy restaurant

You were discomfited that I sent back your soup

I convinced you that complaining wasn't unseemly

You smiled taking my hand with a trusting squeeze

We arrived at my studio on North Bissell Street 

Gifts awaiting you in each of your dresser drawers

The eggplant knit jumper I spent too much money on

The bell-bottom jeans I knew you'd simply adore 

 

And that is how our thirteen-year journey began

With love and promise, innocence and hopefulness

Mornings at my grandmother's old kitchen table

Sipping tea and making plans for the future  

14FEB21

La Rosa​ Negra

Your rejection was poignant and pernicious

Your motives sound and unambiguous

But that didn't change how I felt about you

Only how I came to feel about myself

You became an apparition, my illusive muse

I would spend years painting your image

Writing songs and psalms to your beauty

Falling madly in love with the you I created

I would talk to you at the breakfast table

Every succulent berry an imagined kiss 

I sat alone in the shade of a Hawthorn tree

Accompanied by your shadow and shame   

 

In my dreams we drive down ocean highways

Build a quaint bungalow in Coldwater Canyon

Bask in the light of what should have always been

But what the dying black rose would never allow to be

13FEB21

The Cloister

A young girl approached me in the cloister

Tapped me on my shoulder, tugged at my sleeve

I bent over and she whispered softly in my ear

Kneeling beside her I took a coin from my pocket

She looked at the shiny piece in my hand

Tears welling up in her benevolent green eyes

She gently closed my fingers concealing the coin

Turned and slowly walked into the distance

I laid in my bed that night thinking of her

Unable to recall the words she spoke 

Wondering if I had done the right thing

Playing the scene over and over in my mind 

Then I remembered a day from my youth

One I have thought of often through the years

It was Rachel running toward me in a field

Her pale blue party dress ruffled by the wind  

12FEB21

The Impending Thaw

I sat in my southernly window today

Knees pressed firm against the radiator

Eyes closed tightly in warm rays of sun

Lost for a moment in Miami Beach fantasies

We spoke about our past and Midwestern roots

Interdisciplinarians as you so correctly put it

Hodgepodge people misplaced and displaced

Content with the worlds we created for ourselves

      

We only met but once, but once is all it takes

To be infected by another's exuberance and zeal

Find the middle ground in which to plant a seed

Nourished by the spring's impending thaw

Voices in the airwaves reveal a certain clarity

Resonance and inflection unveil the essence of truth

Gentle ripples jutting out from beneath a frozen lake

The only cold we feel are frozen memories of the past

11FEB21

On the Surface of My Mind

I won't be writing to you again 

But there is so much I have to say

Words I'll simply keep to myself 

Remaining forever and a day

I've kept a secret photo of you

In a shoebox under my bed

Buried beneath dried daffodil petals

That should have been daisies instead  

    

But flowers could never replace you

Your beauty, your fragrance divine 

Taciturn grace and elegance true

Dwell on the surface of my mind

There on the cold tundra of love

Where nothing grows or dies

Frozen sand and empty shells

Reveal faithlessness and lies

10FEB21

The Grind

There is much work to be done

Global workforce pins on a map

Charts to be read reports to be written

Outgoing incoming payables receivables 

Cordialities at the coffee machine

​Black white sugar saccharine 

Dip a biscuit smoke a cigarette

Clock in clock out lunchtime baguette 

    

Back at the grind 40-hour bind

Put on hold try the other line

Following leads out in the field

Sign on the line shake on the deal

Color-coded folders piled on the desk

Coffee-stained ledgers and Post-it Notes

The sticky keyboard and broken mouse

Happy hour at Coconuts the day is done

09FEB21

Drifting

Contrasts of dusty grey and murky white

Spine-chilling cold and frozen wet feet

  Shards of icicle tears stuck to your lashes

Steamy breath billowing from our mouths

You convinced me to sit with you in the snow

We sat on your backpack huddled up close

Momentary rays of sun warming our faces

Your bright glowing smile melting my heart

We walked along the shore until sunset

Returned to the cottage and stoked the fire

Shared a blanket while drinking hot coffee

Drifted off while listening to Fire and Rain 

    

You woke me with a caress and a soft gentle kiss

Handed me a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese

Said you'd been saving it for a special moment

Like the one when you fell hopelessly in love

08FEB21

California & Granville

Street gangs were a big thing back then

Popes, Gaylords, Latin Kings and Vice Lords

Feared, glorified, misunderstood and marginalized

Territory claimed, dominance proclaimed, men inflamed  

 

I woke up early one summer Saturday morning

Walked over to the Jewel to buy some Ding Dongs

Quietly slipped through the Dorontich's gangway

Threw a stone through those old broken windows

There were peculiar sounds drifting in heavy air

A humid din of low-pitched murmurs and whispers

Peaking my head around the corner of the parking lot

100 black men in white dago tees and black top hats

    

Standing there frozen in the moment, numb and afraid

My thumbs locking under my palms as fear took hold

A hand touched my shoulder, a voice softly spoke

Telling me to slowly turn around and just go home

07FEB21

Nancy

I suppose it wouldn't have been so surprising

Discovering you'd been wearing a wig all along

Had it not been for the exploits of our first date

Parked along Mullhullond Drive in my yellow MG  

I picked you up at the Safeway on Ventura Blvd.

I'd never seen you in everyday clothes before

You were leaning up against a shopping cart rack

Spitting sunflower seed shells into a paper bag

We drove to Thai Cottage in Studio City

Molly and Dweezil sitting at their usual table

I wondered if you only accepted my invitation

To see if I was really telling the truth about them

    

Our story was fleeting, replete with carefree desire

It wasn't our fault the Great Dane was hit by a car

All we did was take an innocent evening stroll

Talking about what a future together might be like

06FEB21

Disparity

I've grown accustomed to many things in life

Living from hand to mouth, wanting more than I need

Giving more than I should, getting back even less

Loving unconditionally, suffering alone in my despair

They say self-pity is an unbecoming trait

But so much more tolerable than self-loathing

   I wouldn't trade places with anyone in the world

   have learned to live so exquisitely in my own skin

I drove a 911 once barefoot just like David did

Promised myself I'd buy one of my own someday

Drove down PCH, her fingers running through my hair

She swore she'd never forget me and love me forever

    

But I moved away and she married another man

One with a real job, a house and purposeful life

And I travelled the world and made little of things

Never quite understanding the disparity of providence

05FEB21

Topsy-Turvy

Sometimes life looks upside down

Feels as if everything is topsy-turvy

Up is down and down is up

Left is right and right is wrong

There was a time once, long ago

When we only spoke with our eyes

The truth was better left unspoken

What we desired, inconceivable  

I jumped on the Eisenhower

Rode the I-88 west to DeKalb

New Frye cowboy boots killing me

  It seemed like a good idea at the time

    

You were so happy to see me

Show me off to your new friends

Taking only what you needed

I can't recall ever going home

04FEB21

Rod Carew

I've told my fair share of tall tales

Never sure anymore which ones are true

Or simply blur the lines between fact and fiction

Embellished anecdotes from an unconventional life

Perhaps they're true because I really lived them

You're bound to run into a movie star in L.A.

That is, after all, where they make their home

Where I made mine, all those years ago

I ate pastrami sandwiches with Johnny and Lori

Looked up Justine's skirt as she tried on pumps

Played my tape to Cornelius as he sat on my couch

Told Hillel the babe on keyboards was my girlfriend

    

Of all the stories and wild escapades that I recall

The one about Rod Carew always comes to mind

Invited me into his home; to a game and dinner

Almost died laughing as I took a puff of his cigar

03FEB21

Grandfathers

I can better conjure up their faces

As I saw them through the viewfinder

Or in cracked black and white photos

In yellowing albums behind faded plastic

 

Zayde reading the Forverts on a lawn chair

Papa Art standing beside his '52 Styleline

Bernie in a wide-lapeled sport jacket 

Ted with bright white hair and a bolo tie

All that remains is an old nicked ram's horn

Unkept promises of fishing on the lake

A drawerful of badly typed letters

The memory of our only handshake

     

These were the grandfathers of my youth

Some of them blood, while others were not

Men among men, almost larger than life

A momentary presence of everlasting truth

02FEB21

Madrid​ 1987

My first intercontinental flight

Early Sunday morning arrival

The airport is completely empty

A lone civil guard paces about

  

I find a public phone but have no coins

The exchange bureau closed until eight

So I take a seat and wait patiently

Contemplating what lies ahead of me

Coins in hand I return to the phone

But there's no slot to insert them in

No slit to slip in a credit card

Instructions in a foreign tongue

     

So I sit on the floor against a wall

Waiting for someone to come along

Observe just how they use the phone

Mimic their actions and make my call

01FEB21

When One Door Closes

I had a vision of you last night

In an early morning dream

I dare not ponder too deeply

Its meaning or implications

  

We were in the old three-story

You wore a tattered light-blue robe

Your hair wet and tangled from the storm

Tears running down your hollow cheeks

  

Restraining your rage while scolding me harshly

Unfounded accusations of infidelity and betrayal

But I knew the real truth behind the spectacle

Your repugnance at marrying a man of my age

     

There was an old suitcase beneath the bed

Musty and yellow-stained reeking of the past

I packed my things as you stood looking on

You took off your robe and closed the door

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