all my life I have felt mediocre
now i have sunk below that level

i want to cry out

i look at my reflection
i n a puddle of water
it’s breaking up into fragments
i can’t bear to see it
my ego falls like useless raindrops

once i attended a studio for singers
we all sat around
and listened to each other
there was almost nothing to say
here and there a chip of sadness would fall from someone’s
vocal cords
and pretend that it was truth,
after several visits to the studio
i stood up and faced my colleagues
i opened my mouth
i stroked my vocal cords
it wasn’t a sound i had ever heard
i realized it was my voice
i was full of fear
when i finished singing, i stood within silence
the teacher had tears in her eyes and was saying things
about my voice that i couldn’t accept
she was calling me a wonderful singer
i knew it was all a lie
i fled from the studio
i never returned
from that day on i only sang in choruses

no solos except for one instance
we were rehearsing the last act of Lucia di Lammermoor
the tenor soloist was absent and the conductor joked,
“someone else can sing it if they wish”,
i heard the desperate introduction to edgardo’s aria
my mouth opened and suddenly i was lost in my voice
when we finished the scene
the room was silent
i was standing alone
i ran away and never sang again

you are more beautiful
than the ripe red amaryllis
placed before me,
the flaming miracle
standing here
slop ing here
wi th red arrogance
proclaiming, ‘there is none
wi th five
flowers like me’
‘there is none
there is none’
who will boast
its’ magnificent
nobody knows how long
the flowers will
who would want to know?
this must be its hiddenness,
this must be unspeakable.

are you leaving?
are you leaving right now?
i’m in the bathroom
are you finished?
when you come back, i won’t be here.
there will be more space
you’ll be able to do many different things
there will be a lot of room for you
empty space, 1/3rd of a shelf
2/3rds off another
some shelves completely empty
when you walk into another room
it will be just you
you won’t bump into someone
it will be very quiet
the octegenarian will stop humming
stop humming tunes that never existed
i’ll stop bumping into your leg
i know how it annoys you.
no more crumbs on the floor
you can hire house cleaners once a month
instead of weekly
you won’t have to hear snide remarks
about Hallmark Holiday dramas
you can listen to them anytime
you won’t have to hear law and order sequels
over and over and over
if you can think about this without sadness
you’ll realize that this is what everyone wants
a chance to meditate all day
drink two bottles of wine and throw up
look into the mirror and straighten your hair all day
never have to cook again
walk around in your pajamas for three days
you’ll be alone but you won’t be alone
i’ll stop in once a day to check your status
there will be subtle clues to remind you
that i once existed you won’t really be alone i’ll be on guard
if something is mind boggling, i’ll be there
if the tug on your heart is too strong, i’ll take care of it
if anyone messes with your spirit, i’ll anihilate them instantly
i know, i know, i know
i said i won’t be here
it’s partially true
the truth is, i don’t exist without you
there are many hiding spots on your body
one could self-educate in your brain forever
i’ll wait until there’s nothing left
but your spirit
and then i’ll move back in

each day moves toward year’s end
everything becomes darker, longer,
we hold singular moments,
hide them in our hearts.
we know everything
we know nothing.
so we draw electricity from
ur centers.
tiny patches of color,
golden/silver tinklings.
they light up a very special tree
which stretches from brooklyn,
sings to the carousal
“come ride the wind.”
“oh come all ye faithful,
joyful and triumphant.”

i saw an evergreen that was not a christmas tree
it was a balsam
deep, dark emerald green
deep, deep forest green
upon it:
no ornaments, no tinsel, no ribbons,
no shining, quivering candles or lights.
six inches from the tree there was delicate, transluscent lace
which surrounded the tree but didn’t touch it.

five inches away there were
shining, glittering, magnificent, pale red garlands.
artificial icicles created rainbow reflections
in the fourth layer.
thick and thin, tall and short candles filled the third row
their flickering created magic, moving shadows.
the second row contained legions of multi-colored
electric bulbs.
none of the decorations touched the tree
they surrounded it
they encircled it
they seemed to adore it
inside the many-layered, opaque, hazy dress
the tree danced
it had not been cut down but it danced
it was a tree of no logic
a tree of impossible
can you b e lieve it ?

i asked her what she did when she was sad
“i start to drive,
i turn on the radio,
i find some music,
the tears flow as i continue to drive,
it hurts
so much i don’t know what to do with it.”
“i stare at the ocean,
i stare at the black of night,
i stare at the distance to the stars,
i stare into space until my tears dry.”

she came from her native country
to visit her mother and have her fourth baby
when she had her little boy
covid was dripping everywhere
no one was able
to l e a v e
it has been two years
she sings to the moon
she sings, “i am so beautiful to me”
she sings wha t ever tune
circles her heart

my old friend bud was 100 years old yesterday.
if i dug through
i’d have to stare a very long
time for something


listen intensely to hear his violin.
i recognize his high, soft voice
lecturing upon
insect anatomy, pointing out pincers and stingers,
demonstrating how each part functions.
i have no trouble smelling his special, succulant salmon,
my memory chambers have burst open.
now he is completely present
i stand and watch his body slowly reappear.
i can see his short, agile arms suddenly solidify
on the other side of the BART turnstile
we hug and smile and exchange our loving warmth.
he hands me two perfect loaves of stollen
still warm from the oven
and then disappears into the engulfing subway caverns.

as i drive toward home i replay our scene of tender respect
not wanting to lose the blessed energy.
suddenly his spirit multiplies,
i can feel his eyes
staring into mine

across the street
from 327 birmingham avenue
there was a small forest
people referred to it as “the woods”

when my father wasn’t tired from
working in the mill
he would finish his cigarette
and look me in the eye
“want to go pick some fruit?”
we would slide
down the
disappeared into the woods
stand in a clearing and look for fruit
i started to climb up a tall pear tree
“don’t waste your time,
the leaves on that one are curling”
thirty secands later
pappy was shmmying up a very wide trunk
soon the pears came bouncing
down and i was scurrying in every direction
the pears looked perfectly ripe
turning yellow just before falling
my sack was almost full
my father came sliding down
smiling and pleased with his find
i climbed the next tree
i could hear pappy jumping in the leaves
soon he yelled loudly
“we have enough for two pies.”
i jumped down to a low limb
and landed in the weeds.
we picked out two juicey pears
and sat in the shade
we bit into their sweetness
the juice ran down our arms
this was almost as good as baseball

it wasn’t a haunting sound,
it wasn’t a frightening scream,
it was a deeply embedded feeling
which confronted them,
something far inside.

people passed
each other,
they wanted to stop and ask a question
but they didn’t.
they weren’t sure but they were almost
some wanted to describe what they felt.

there was hesitation as more people joined
the crowd which was beginning to form.

figures in long overcoats
seemed to be stuck in one spot.
they barely moved or they didn’t move at all

at the other side of the town square
a group was shivering and shaking.
it wasn’t cold but their heads shook
faster and faster
as though a long cord was jerking them,
as though a stretchy rubber band
was tightening

an ultra bright beam of light
burst from a flower bed,
a chilling high note screamed forth.
no one moved
no one could move
the screaming stopped
everything returned to normal
no one moved

darkness descended upon the haunting
pitch blackness descended upon hesitation
everybody waited
they couldn’t feel their breath

all hallow’s eve hummed softly

i was hurrying along court street
my very long hair was blowing in the wind
and trailing behind me
it had become unmanageable.
as if by divine, hairy intervention,
a barber pole appeared on my right
just before i got to state street.

i tapped on the window
peered in
i didn’t see anyone
a dark figure stepped up to the door and the lock clicked open
“are you open?” “yes”
“why was the door locked?”
“to keep unnecessary intruders out.”
i looked at the barber and stepped back in fear
his body seemed to be pure muscle
his hair was very dark and majestic
as if he was a black lion

i tried to think of a reason for exiting
but he led me to a barber chair.
i think i stared at him as if he was a monster
“are you from israel?” “no”
“egypt?” “no”
he put a hairstyle catalogue in my hands
“choose the way you would like to look”
now he stared at me and imitated my questioning
“are you from canada?” “no”
“england?” “no” “usa?” “BINGO”

i chose a medium/short haircut style
that would last several months
the wall in front of us was all mirrored
he worked very quickly, didn’t say a word
each time he finished a section
he held up a small round mirror
for my inspection
it was perfect
he turned the chair around
so i could see the finished cut
“would you like a shave?” “yes”
he picked up a straight razor
and sharpened it on a strop
“oh,no,no,no, i’ve never had that kind of shave.”
“it’s the best”
“are you afraid i will slice off your head” “yes”
“i could have done that already”
“look into my eyes. can you see kindness?”
he brought his face in front of me
and stared into my eyes.”well?”
“you’re not evil.” “but am i kind?”
“i don’t know,
i don’t want
to die in a
barber chair.
i’ll pass. maybe next name is daniel.
what is your name?”
“azizz. it means mighty, powerful, beloved,
and daniel?”
“god is my judge.”

every time i looked in the mirror
to admire Azizz’ handiwork
i smiled.
his touch was magnificent
i decided to visit him every six weeks.
at the end of each cutting he would
smile, “would you like a shave?”
” maybe next time”
just before the holidays i decided i would have
a straight razor shave.
maybe azizz would smile or even laugh aloud.
as i turned the corner at state and court
i could see that the barber pole was gone.
there was a ‘for rent’ sign on the empty shop door,
i stared at the black and white tiles in the entry way,
i ran my fingers over the rusty screw holes
that had held the pole.
i felt deep regret and knew that i had lost
something which i didn’t even understand