Menke Katz (1906—1991)

poems (Y)




Five Minutes Late

On Bores

Portrait of a Graphomaniac
Against Lock or Rhyme

Isaiah on Freedom
On Hunting
A Chased Mouse
On God’s Children

On Travel

On Race

Praise to our Faults
On the Sins of God

To a Truthmonger
Praise to the White Lie

A Hundred Years Hence
Grand Toast
On Messiah
On Resurrection

Five Minutes Late
(unrhymed villanelle)

You are a minute late for our appointment.
I await you in a cafeteria,
in expectation of a great miracle.

In two minutes the thronged cafeteria
seems empty as after a calamity.
(Crowds flow around me as a quenchless river.)

In three minutes elves chewed off my fingernails.
I dread you may never come, could be you met
Icarus on the way and flew to the sun.
Four minutes are the hands and feet of a ghoul
who invades you as a treasure grave, thus and
so what is left of you if not a raped nymph?
Evening towers climb from mirage to mirage.
With each turn of the revolving door New York
returns to its unborn stage, to virgin wilds.
In five minutes I have a date with longing.
You never lived or died my love, still you roll
me under every wheel of my queened city,
still I am stoned by the mobbed streets of New York.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 15)

On Bores

A Young Bore

When a young business bore stands next to you,
you see real estate when you look at trees.
On bargain day one and one is a few.
Your dreams on the stock market are tax-free.
All his eminent humdrum is your own.
Heaven and hell are bought in general stores.
At the gem counter, rubies ever dawn.
In market town is a coin a meteor.
June of eighteen carat gold is on sale
in florid Florida, in December.
Bermuda skies sell blue angels wholesale.
In African wilds, you see skinned each bear.

The Milky Way in dew is a diamond store.
Midas turns tin debtors into gold creditors.

An Old Bore

When an old insured bore sits next to you,
his colored tales, self-born, are skilled rainbows.
The reminiscent sky is of tired blue,
in the drowsy land of Nod where old storms doze.

Always on guard, a curved track has anxious claws.
Even in a breeze he hears ambushed sneaks chat.
Doves over carrion are imminent crows.
Dollars bate in his hands, like green spectral bats.
Fate is a wise palm of a lucky crone.
Young truth is a lie, he — the old lie is true.
His greed is the power behind Satan's throne.
Only his yellowed days the wind will strew.
His gathered summers are threshed, weighed, priced and stored.
The moon over his grave is a fabulous bore.

A Traveling Bore

When you travel with a bore around the globe,
you think God made distance to have enough room
for you to ride through drab infinity, doomed
to curse, through space, the day you were born, like Job.

You plead: Elohim, when I come to Sheol,
in the bottomless pit of hell, do not spare
the infernal rod to tell me I once dared
to sin, laugh, cry, live and die, but I will call
you from the abyss of fire-fiends, O save me
from the plague of a contagious bore. I fear
his skill in grill and shrill may drill out of me
sour yogurt and out of you — a monstrous tear.
I saw the sun, at dusk, pray long next to a bore
for a fate where there is no return anymore.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, pp. 24-25)

Portrait of a Graphomaniac

All words hate his guts:
words like manna falling from
heaven in deserts;
words — lost winds in distress, cry
for help as they rush to God.

A cliche juggler,
tossing, catching the worn moon
until the sky is
haunted by the face of a
ghoul, feeding on its own corpse.

A slytongued barker,
outbarks chased foxes, outshrieks
laughs of hyenas,
prowls through his own heavens, preys
on cherubs as on winged rats.

White impatiens faint
in fear of his touch. Sundowns
suicide in their
own fires. Moses in nightmares
chews cud like a beardless goat.

Lilacs weep as they
drink his dew made in wordmills.
Narcissus bows in
awe, all mirrors are in love
with his fabled reflection.

A dazzling selfist,
his grandeur leaves shame-eaten
the modest daylight,
or the scented nights of June,
bereaved of his own shadow.

He is faultless as
a wooden frog, crowned king of
kings of beams. His star
gurgles in shampoos, moral
pimp of harlot damselflies.

Pal of Baudelaire's
old whores who outblush flame-cheeked
paper roses; masked
like Pope, "he perfumes the skies"
from the top of Mount Carmel.

A horned sorcerer,
he transforms golden eagles
into fleahoppers;
sends evil spirits to milk
the breasts of Virgin Mary.

He hocus-pocussed
his own universe where clouds
burst into inkstorms,
smirch with ink his soul as if
he were born in an inkhole.

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 58)

Against Lock or Rhyme

sit in rhymes
like men, birds, beasts
in cages. I saw
Samson with fist in the
teeth of a lion, forced to
his knees under the load of rhymes.

brother, let
your word roll un-
rhymed as thunder, let
it flash like free lightning
through the fog: over a parched
field, the eager harbinger of
rain. The poem in rhyme bends like a
captured enemy under an arched yoke.

A chased deer in panic of the forest does
not race in rhyme, a grieved stone does not mourn in rhyme.
The rhyme, patted, rounded by the file of crystal verse,
cuts into the flesh of a word like a wound. If like thirst,
stream, sun, storm is eternal the poem, lock not the storm in
the cell of a rhyme. Give the word the fresh scent of ripe corn,
swaying in wind of a hopeful field, tasty as rare
bread of my hungry childhood. Let the word ride on,
speak face to face with your neighbor of a far
century. Wars do not kill in rhyme. A
plummeting airplane like a wounded
eagle does not fall in rhyme. A
hurricane does not uproot
trees in rhyme. A stormy
sea is a rhymeless
call for a day
without lock
or rhyme.

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 57)

Isaiah on Freedom

Isaiah is always there
where builders build a new jail.
He says: Alas, my grim sons,
the sword is still not a plow.
If one image of God will
be somewhere chained in a cell
the chain will shackle us all,
in heaven and on earth.
Angels will know the weight of
the chain, winds will not be free
to curse even their own fate.
The sky will be an endless
prison roof if one captive
will still remain in a cell,
at the end of time, nearby.

(from: Menke Katz, Rockrose, The Smith: New York 1970, p. 88)

On Hunting

I heard the legends
of Michaleshik at a
brook in New England.
I saw the deer take your moods
in a dash to the unknown.

O leave for the armed
coward the skill to
vie with a trapped deer;
the fun to pierce the heavens
with the cry of a shot bird.
In the plundered nest
only ghosts hatch their cursed eggs.
Calm has a vile tongue.
Even stumps are wounds in the
twilight woods. Even stones bleed.

The cat bird — a pest
mews odes to a craven ghoul.
The wind strews baned seeds.
O hear a dead bird with a
broken beak peck someone's skull!

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 40)

A Chased Mouse

The woe and panic of a chased mouse is murder.
Her shadow in the moonlit fissure resembles my grief:
dainty-limbed, a graceful dream, dressed in sensitive fur,
and I am shabby to the core and I am clumsy as a rock.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 75)

On God's Children

the knife is
here not even
to cut the throat of
a flea. I learned on Pig
Street that baby pigs are the
favorite pets of angels that
knives are here to break bread with all God's
children, such as the white little goat who
promised almonds and raisins in songs of my
mother when she lulled me to sleep, in the wooden
cradle, in the wistful village of Michaleshik.

the knife is
here only to
strip nude the fruits from
the trees of Eden. (I
heard a weary wanderer
saying in the shade of a tree:
all trees are from Eden.) Mine is the
fire (not the flesh) of the bull — the champion
lover. Let us drink no toast to life with the
hunter, Satan's sportsman, with hands of death. O let
us not pollute with blood the wine of heaven and earth.

(from: Menke Katz & Harry Smith, Two Friends, State of Culture & Horizon Press: New York & London 1981, p. 36)

On Travel

Travel is for weak-
chinned braggarts (champagne is for
sterile snobs) but at
a cup of coffee a chat
is still the farthest, grand tour.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 71)

On Race

Two races were left
from time immemorial:
the race of mammon,
and the race of lone poets —
the blessed scum of the earth.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 68)

Praise to our Faults

Praise ye the Lord for each of our blessed faults,
with psaltery and dance, with flesh and bone:
the prankish shades which save us from the scorching sun.
A pygmy without faults is a giant fault.
Perfect is the boredom of the half-witted crone.
Faultless is the false-eyed rose which cannot fade,
the synthetic heart, the soul hand made.
Grim numbers cannot err, impotent sticks cannot ache.
The eunuch in a nude harem is all sin.
The tiniest worm like the sunrise is genuine.
Authentic is the shadow of a blade of grass.
Dreams are real as the reflections of nighthawks which pass
in the Spring, northward, over a moonlit lake.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 76)

On the Sins of God

God of mercy, are you not merciless to turn into dust
your own image to place as guards the Cherubim and the
flaming sword, to keep Eden locked, to create hell in
heaven after hell on earth for the only sin
of tasting one of your all-wise apples (fit
for a miser, hoarder of apples)? King
of the universe, would it not be
just to lead yourself through all the
torments of Gehenna to
atone for your wrongs since
Adam, until man
of true mercy
will forgive
your sins?

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 93)

To a Truthmonger

The cruelest of all
beasts is your naked truth. You
transform me into
a mule, a wolf-spider, a
yak, zebu, a snake-idol.

O you are all truth,
bladed as a slaughtering
knife over my throat,
and there is no ram in sight
to offer his life for me.

I am the prince of
liars. On my travels through
back ages, I reached
beyond God, dueled Adam,
fled from Eden with nude Eve.

At dawn, Eve was half
woman, half fish, made of a
fake rib when she heard:
Trick or treat, the picklock of
the truth of all truths is here.

O savage-hearted
truth, you see me as a kind
monster whose gift is
a tin apple for a starved
tear-kissed bride in famine land.

In truth a blind god
with eyes like potato warts;
who digs lies like gems;
would love my head, guillotined,
set on a headless dragon?

My last lie will be
in mirror-writing on my
gravestone at a stray
sun: rising, falling nowhere,
reaching everywhere.

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 59)

Praise to the White Lie

The eighth wonder of the world is the white lie
we tell day in, day out to save our lives,
to redeem us from the terror of tedium.
Out of compassion God formed the white lie,
the daydream to change into wings our throttling ties,
to give us ease to live, mirage to marvel.

My last prayer will be to the white lie,
the angel of mercy flitting wingbroken
at my deathbed to charm out of my coffin
a rowboat cruising hell-deep the seas of dusk,
(with death as with a killing, wanton-eyed love)
where Manhattan drowns in its own mirrors.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 77)

A Hundred Years Hence

O a hundred years hence, my son,
seven year old, fool-proof prankster,
we shall all be merrily dead.
We will be in every wonder,
in miracles spun by spiders —
a tale of a hundred years hence.
Each echo will ever echo:
we are immortal, no wind is
born to vanish, no stone is dead.
A stone dropped in a stream will bring
round and round all the suns we saw
go down a hundred years ago.
We will join the unborn children,
untouched as snowflakes in a dream,
we shall all be blissfully dead.
The wind will be our next of kin.
(I hear falling leaves talk of birth.)
Just a hundred years hence, my son,
ho, death will be merrily dead.

(from: Menke Katz, Land of Manna, Windfall Press: Chicago 1965, p. 53)


I see
mud-puddles in
late autumn, at sunset,
like mirrors where fallen angels

And I, death-proof at
the dying day clench in my
arms the girl I meet
in dreams whom I named without
rhyme or reason — Paragoolt.

My love Paragoolt
will walk out of my poems
to see how sad each
dawn on my grave will rise. She
will not leave the treasure hunt

of my yellowed, long
forgotten poems, in search of
words which conquer death.
Come Paragoolt, we shall love
forever and a moonbow!

(from: Menke Katz, Nearby Eden, The Smith: New York 1990, p. 128)

Grand Toast

As I reach King David's age, it is good to die
next to the first and the last love of all true
poets: solitude, in a lonely room
where I may not hear the last song of
a dying swan but the squeaking
serenade of a trapped mouse,
in a backyard of old
New York or in a
dream-gutter like
the gloried
drunk Poe.

Or may I die here in our old forest house,
when the redwinged blackbirds start to migrate.
My last thoughts littered with unwritten
poems, lulled into hell (No,
not the dull splendor
of Eden) by the
legends flowing
through the near
by creek.

Curse me not God to die in a hospital bed.
No darkness frightens like the light of snow white
hospital sheets like neat and trim shrouds, fit
for dying men who lie as on a
mercy display, under the wings
of the angel of death, led
to heaven by snobbish
hands of rubbersouled
doctors, as dusk
bleeds beyond

And guard me God against the merciful eyes of
nurses who may see my penis, not as the
god of love who can thrill with fire from
the first to the last Eve on earth but
as a torn tail which can not raise
itself to frighten even
a horsefly away, un
like Socrates, may
I drink alone
a grand toast
to death.

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 102)

On Messiah

Messiah is in no hurry to come for he fears to give
even to himself infinity. He would rather be
the donkey on which he is destined to ride at the
end of days and let the donkey be Messiah
braying as through a ram's horn, calling all the
dead to dawn, all equals: man, bird, frog, God.
The doomed will be the first to rise, to
live their days which were once whipped, caged, choked.
The garden of Eden will
be on the once cursed earth,
where there were jails, hang
men, presidents,
gallows, wars,

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 93)

On Resurrection

We shall
all be born
again, among
the unborn: a dream
without the dreamer. Like
God each one will be neither
end nor beginning, neither night
nor day. Timeless as the world before
Genesis, before time. Spaceless, we shall
be everywhere and nowhere: nonexistent
existence in worm and angel, in dust and sky.

(from: Menke Katz, A Chair for Elijah, The Smith: New York 1985, p. 67)

poems (E)
poems (Y)