My third book of poetry from Kelsay Books. Up now on Amazon.

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Vow of Silence

Tired of talk.
How hard
to take this dreadful season
in silence.

The reason
for the pleading
has passed
like last summer.

I did not see
it going. Only gone.
To quiet
now

against those
tedious arguments —
repeat
and repetition.

My cheerful, mid-winter, mid-pandemic poem is up on The Drabble.

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Balm

My poem, Balm, was just published by the Bookends Review. Here is the poem.

This evening, I ended my walk
with a terrific skid.
Just as I recovered
the sun peeked out
from wherever it had been hiding,
to warm my neck and face
and the streetlights,
as if to share in my relief,
flickered to life.

It took me back,
to one of those flights
from Hawaii or Japan
that landed at LAX at dawn
We banked
and I could see
the sun’s earliest light
sharing the stage
with runway lights
backgrounded
by a city so calm
and gentle
I had to pinch myself
to remember where I was.

You and I no longer
worship the sun as god.
Yet doesn’t the sunset,
for all its colorful hallelujahs,
bring with it the same odd unease
that drove our
primitive ancestors to light
bonfires to coax
the sun back to life.

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Oak

My poem, Oak, is up on RavensPerch today. A who-knows-where-the-time-goes meditation. Here it is:

While I was dozing
the seedling I planted
grew forty feet
and threatens my roof
in the wind.

My children went
from “mama”
to middle aged
with children
of their own—

marriages,
mortgages,
money worries,
and hair starting to gray
at the roots.

While I was dozing
my friends became
old and arthritic
with artificial hips
and knees that sound

like the tin man in the rain
Memory faded,
they talk of medical miracles
and how they’ve outlived
their physicians.

But my tree is magnificent
shading half a city block
with its wingspan.
Did I ever tell you
I planted it

as a seedling
and that it
grew to a thing
of wonder
while I dozed?

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Scry

My poem, Scry, is in the current issue of Waymark Literary Magazine (Kennesaw State University). Here is a link:

and here is the poem:

Scry

An awful night—alone with 

that All Soul’s crew

on the third floor of the dorm.

A half-dozen wanna be witches 

and warlocks

dressed to kill Cock Robin 

yet looking more malnourished 

then wicked.

I was stoned—

when wasn’t I stoned,

and on a diet 

of Southern Comfort 

for its medicinal benefits,

when they broke out 

the Ouija board.

They dimmed

the lights for fear

that ancient dorm room

at twilight

might not be creepy enough—

and yes, I shoulda been

laughing my ass off

but this was 1968

and I couldn’t keep up

with the constant 

parade of sorrows.

They linked hands 

and slid a heart-shaped block

around the board

as if possessed—

perhaps they were.

And it didn’t take them

long at all

to declare me

a walking dead man.

And yes, I knew it

for hooey,

but I spent that night

walking the ice-strewn streets

trying to convince myself

I’d be alive tomorrow—

that I wanted to be alive tomorrow.

I was only a kid then,

you know,

and had 

lost my way. 

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Rereading

My poem was published today by MacQueen’s Quinterly.

Rereading

is like checking in 
with an old friend 
you find drowsing 

on a porch swing 
in a house along 
the storied river. 

It seems years 
since she’s even 
run a comb through her hair, 

but she offers buttered scones 
and reheated coffee 
that tastes better 

with each successive sip. 
You warm 
to her lilting voice 

sharing stories 
as you walk along 
the mossy path—

tales you knew 
so well once, 
and yet, 

hasn’t their meaning 
shifted ever so slightly, 
like the light 

through the willows 
you walk beside 
in the advancing afternoon.
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Legacy

My poem is up at The Literary Nest. Here is the poem and some comments from the editor.

Legacy

Here’s one you haven’t heard,
he’d say to start each story—
and we hadn’t.

You could almost see him reach for the tale—
as if rummaging in the junk drawer
to retrieve it.

Sam worked at the Church Avenue Branch
of the library, until blindness
forced retirement.

He taught me to read
after my second grade teacher had declared
me hopeless.

He told stories to kids each Saturday morning
and taught English to adults three
nights a week.

I often subbed for him
as his cancer progressed—
I was happy at it.

Seventy years of smoking
had conspired to kill him.
As if the smoke

had found substance—a fat tabby
that slept soundly on his chest.
I’d kill

for a Camel, he said with what passed
for a laugh—Got one?
I’d have given

him one if I still smoked, but I could see
his mood had changed.
Here’s one

you haven’t heard, he said
one last time—in a half voice
I could barely understand.

When I was your age, I knew
a storyteller—told tales 
that made you shiver.

You have the gift.” he said.
I didn’t stay to watch him die.
That moonless night, the city

was dark as London in the blitz.
Here’s one you haven’t heard, I thought
taking a single baby step.

***
Editor’s Note:

What a lovely and gentle story of a storyteller and his protégée. Notice the linebreaks in stanzas 7-12. The regular length lines and complete sentences at both ends of the poem are interrupted by short lines with breath-stopping linebreaks in the middle, causing anticipation to build up.

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Heat Lightning

Up at Muddy River Poetry Review. One of my favorites for this year.

Allied Van Lines

was parked by

your old place today.

Day-labor gleaned

from the local Goodwill

moved packing crates

and furniture in

Yes, I pass by still—

hoping for…

I am no closer to knowing

where you’ve gone—

but then, that last night

I didn’t know

that we were saying

our goodbyes.

Tonight I watch

the distant flash

of heat lightning

create an abstract show—

“like sky painting,”

I can hear you say

And god, we need

the rain.

But that storm

will offer no relief.

It is somewhere else—

somewhere far from here.

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Spice of Life

This is up at Thimbletter.

Spice of Life

Steve Deutsch 
My dad was infinitely better
with a knife and fork
than with hammer and nails.
And though his 
do-it-yourself skills 
were never the wonder 
of the Western world
his hamburgers were 
the talk of Hopkinson Avenue.
He worked his magic
on a small hibachi
on the fire escape—
his secret spice mix
secure in an old Hellman’s jar.
 
Early each spring
he’d don his ragged Dodger’s cap
and his consecrated robe,
draw the shades,
and prepare a fresh batch.
It was quite a ceremony.
He’d recount each ingredient three times
as if a cantor
singsonging a prayer—
holding each spice jar
to the kitchen light with reverence—
then mix them all together
with a wooden spoon
that had been in the family
since the time of King David.
“Pure gold,” he’d assure me 
with a wink.
 
He taught me everything I know
and even today I can’t be
trusted with tools.
I’m never asked 
to fix a leak,
caulk a backsplash,
or even change a lightbulb.
But a fire in my fancy gas grill
is cause for the neighborhood
to rejoice and noisily
pray for leftovers.
“Hamburgers,” they murmur,
nudging one another 
and applauding mightily 
when I hold up 
the legendary Hellman’s jar.
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Skully

My poem, Skully, is up at the Red Eft Review today. Here is the poem (it is written in three line stanza):

Skully

Last Saturday we met at Denny’s bar

up on Remsen Avenue by the old Seltzer plant.

The pregame show flashed on the big screen

as Sal took a long sip of beer, 

and brought out an old peppermint tin—

inside was a worn RC Cola cap and a piece of chalk

“Remember Skully,” he asked?

as if we’d ever forget

the street game we played as kids 

on four squares of Brooklyn sidewalk—

a game as New York City

as the Empire State Building.

How we prized those bottle caps,

each of us with a lucky one or two—

history written in a hundred scuffs.

We lived small back then

and had to guard the caps from our moms—

who were known to throw out anything

that “sat out.”

I recognized Sals’ RC cap.

He won it from me in the summer of ’54.

We were out the door in a Budweiser minute.

And that afternoon—instead of watching another b-ball game

we chalked the court and played like the children we once were.

Down on hands and knees we flicked bottle caps

with arthritic fingers and called each other 

by nicknames we thought forgotten.

At the end of that afternoon

I had won the RC cap back—

at least until the rematch.

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