Menke Katz (1906—1991)
poems (Y)



Menke Americana

introduction and selection by

Steven F. Lawson





From Land of Manna
(Windfall Press: Chicago 1965)

A Manikin
Gay Girl
Five Minutes Late
The Old Street
Fool of Borough Park
My First New Year’s Eve on Broadway
At a Patched Window
At a Cup of Coffee
On Blueprints
Teaching my Year Old Dovid to Walk
When my Three Year Old Son will be Fifty Three
A Yiddish Poet
The Conqueror
Still Life of the Year Two Thousand
On History
On the Birth of my Son
On Race
A Furnished Room
On Freedom
To Rivke
A Rejected Poem
My Last Poem

From Rockrose
(Smith-Horizon Press: New York 1970)

Subway Reverie
My City
Twilight on Lincoln Square
Twilight in Coney Island
Old Manhattan
Roses of Borough Park
A Will
Day of Doubt
At a Hundred and Twenty
Little Woman
Razed Village
Elchick and Dveirke
Vachel Nicholas Lindsay
Isaiah on Freedom

From Burning Village
(The Smith: New York 1972)

Gold Diggers
White Little Goat
Cry Wizards
Two Armies
After Battle
Princes of Pig Street
General Horse
Laughing Jackass
Bread of Famine
Children of Pig Street
In Abandoned Barrack
Dream News

From Two Friends
by Menke Katz and Harry Smith
(State of Culture & Horizon Press: New York 1981)

Prayer to a Self-Doomed Stranger
On History
Eating an Apple on Orchard Street
Dusk in Brooklyn Bay
Lake Poets
Old Manhattan
Night over Wall Street
My City

From A Chair for Elijah
(The Smith: New York 1985)

Tempest in Borough Park
Listening to Little Richard
The Witch of Borough Park
In the Year of Three Thousand and One (on the atomic war)
March of the Dead
Mother Tongue
To Rivke
Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Nine
On Old Age
In the Year of Two Thousand
Chant Menke
On Meeting my Son’s Grandchild
Darwin in a Furnished Room at Midnight
A Furnished Room at Sunset
Grand Toast

From Two Friends II
(Birch Brook Press: Otisville, New York 1988)

The Message
Reincarnation (beyond the Atomic Bomb)
In Sterile Days
Heaven Writing to Rivke
Visit at Midnight
Welcome my Eightieth Birthday

From Nearby Eden
(State of Culture & Horizon Press: New York 1981)

Angels on Cherry Street
Poets on Cherry Street
Guests on Cherry Street
Twilight on Cherry Street
Mid Manhattan
Follow The Leaders
Hunter’s Moon
Hymn to Deafness and Blindness
Beyond the Atomic War
Race of Ghouls
Troim, My Daughter
Cheers to the New Year’s Eve of Two Thousand
There is No Last Day, My Son
On The Eve of Four Score
On Knowledge
Autumn Reveries
Two Lovers
God O Goodly Pal



From 1956 to 1958, I attended the Workmen’s Circle School #10 on College Avenue between 169th and 170th Streets in the Bronx. For two years, Menke Katz tried his best to illustrate the beauties of Yiddish history, language, and culture to a tiny group of six ten-to-twelve-year-olds. He managed to do so, but through no fault of his own ultimately fought a losing battle against the forces of assimilation and secularization that kept us from pursuing further studies after we graduated, as he wished. But although my Yiddish language facility remains at about the first grade level, I have never forgotten what an inspiring and towering figure Menke, or Khaver Menke as we called him, was. He cared about his heritage, he cared about his students, he demanded excellence.

Menke was a citizen of the world – an American, a resident of New York and Passaic, New Jersey, a sojourner of the Lower East Side and the Bronx, an East European, a Litvak and a kabbalist. His work transcends geographical boundaries or rigid doctrines. Menke was an iconoclast; he had too much of a sense of humor (and a grim sense of reality as well) to be doctrinaire. He loved Keats, Byron, Shelley, and Poe, but he was also a fan of Little Richard and rock ’n’ roll. Menke defies simple labels. To me he is a democrat with a small “d.” He cared about the well being of ordinary people, not as some abstraction, but as individuals who should know their past and imagine their futures. He was a real mentsh.

Menke is a hero of mine, though I never saw, spoke, or wrote to him after the two years I was in his class. But I never forgot him, and his name appears first among the five in my dedication “In appreciation of inspiring teachers” at the start of my 2003 book, Civil Rights Crossroads. Nation, Community, and the Black Freedom Struggle. It was not until 2005, with the aid of the Internet, that I decided to find out more about Khaver Menke. I was fortunate to come across the website of Dovid Katz, which is dedicated to Menke and the members of his family. I contacted Dovid in Lithuania and felt myself once again in the presence of Khaver Menke. When I graduated from Workmen’s Circle, Menke gave us a copy of one of his books in Yiddish, which he inscribed and accompanied with one of his flowery illustrations. Since I met Dovid in cyberspace (though not yet in person), I have added Menke’s books of English poetry to my collection.

Dovid asked me to select a number of Menke’s English poems on American topics. I consider this an honor to pay homage to a teacher whose talents I never fully realized in my youth. I have chosen poems that reflect Menke’s view of New York City and environs, his life as a poet, and his close family. I have come to think of Menke as a poet of the cafeteria, tenement house, and city streets, venues to which he refers in his American poems. They resonate to me, because I lived in a five story walk-up and loved going with friends and family to shmooze at cafeterias with their smell of brewing coffee and piles of food.

Yet deciphering Menke’s poems is not an easy task. Much of his imagery is dark, vivid, and fantastical. They contain flights of religious, sexual, and historical fancy. And though I do not always understand his references, I am attracted to these poems for the starkness and richness of his language and vision. I think that Menke’s American poems are ironic, because Menke seemed to have complex feelings about the United States. He once wrote that he had come to America with grand expectations only to be greeted by the disappointment of poverty and injustice in the 1920s and 1930s. World War II brought about the Holocaust of Menke’s Eastern European Jewry, but it also led to the creation of Israel, in which he and Rivke would live for a while (and to which he tried to persuade his students like me to go and work on a kibbutz-to no avail in my case). The war also vaulted the U.S. into world superpowerdom, but created the means for its nuclear destruction of the planet. In postwar America, Menke felt both the disillusionment of the McCarthy period, and the revelations that Stalin brutally killed his own people in the Soviet Union, including dissenters and Jews. His American poems thus reflect his ambivalence about his adopted country, its delights and its tragedies. Like many modern poets, Menke had come to realize, as both Shakespeare and Calderon de la Barca suggested centuries earlier, that life is a dream. And Menke used his dreams so that it is hard to tell in his poems the difference between reality and fantasy.

What his American poems do show unequivocally and without irony is that Menke took delight in his family. His later poems demonstrate that he was not afraid to die and even welcomed death because of the joy he had experienced each day he lived and the legacy of his life that would be carried on through his poems. He would live on in those whom he inspired so deeply, and in their works, too. He would not be disappointed; Menke lives on.

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A Manikin

A manikin in a show window — a mocked bride,
deprived of sorrow, condemned to smile till doomsday.
Children on winged horses of a carousel ride
like little folk of yesterday to her wedding day.
Her wedding gown of mournful white — a starry shroud.
The bridal train — the tail of a longing mermaid.
Each ray, a mirror smashed by the evening crowds.
The show window is a dazzling lake, her heart — bait.
The day is rushed into shreds, crushed under tired feet.
The sun, a squeezed lemon hugged to death in subways.
The mermaid tossed through flame and steel, from street to street,
on glorious Fifth Avenue, through skulked byways.
My bride in the twilight trance, before her last dance.
And I, self-doomed, drunk with death, fall in her fire-dance.

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Gay Girl

I am the gay girl of your ravishing night.
I build the rich castles of your cheap cabarets.
I jig your lights, I vamp your life.

At dawn I carry home the yoke of weary love.
At dawn I lead you to a lurking lane astray.
Some stingy dimes, a garret in the slums
is all that is left of you — Broadway.

The lone hours reiterate my toil:
The tiny room is a huge goblet.
The ceiling swears to elope with the floor.
The old walls jazz their youth again.

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Five Minutes Late

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.

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The Old Street

Night. Angels guard the rich dreams of the poor.
The old street, overawed, feeds its own doom.
A stray cat in the midst of a wild climb,
as if by a somnambulist lured,
grips with broken claws a steep chimney,
mewing for help to delirious stars:
A wingless cat-bird on a soaring tree.
Heaven is near, the earth as Eden far.

Autumn chills the rouged souls of two-bit girls.
Lonely harlots brood in veiled attics.
Banjos, cats and bums
welcome to hell condemned buildings.
The moon crowns each princess of sin
the kindest of women,
kind to the kind as to the brute, —
the friend of the streets,
noble as moonbeams
which give to dung as to the rose God’s light.
Through the haggard night I am the wondrous flute.

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Fool of Borough Park

Borough Park dreams of a park since its birth,
a dream, a lame duck in a stagnant pond.
The streets hum and drum infinite humdrum.
Change of season means change of tedium.
O the boredom may outlive even God!

The moron as if out of a ghoul land,
leads the days and nights through deaf and dumb streets.
Horse faced, under the horse load of his head,
the Grand Booby walks through his own splendor,
neighing thanks to himself that he was born.

Here is Shulamite, choice rose of Sharon,
dyed on a cheap dress of a show window.
Not Solomon is at the shepherd’s tent,
but he, the princely fool of Borough Park.
He drinks from the goblet which needs no wine.

He sees Engedi — his private daydream,
with eyes — wild berries of deadly nightshades.
His bride leaves her dress in the show window
and walks nude through the vines of Borough Park.
The little hill can conquer all mountains.

The fate of the fool is ever thriving.
Dawns rise with the glory of crowned blockheads.
Gangs with gutter tongues shrewd as guillotines,
salute him as their master mariner,
the sailor clown on their boat of fortune.

June. The Brooklyn trees rage with jealous green.
Moons are skulked dastards of the underworld.
Alley cats mate, rejoice he is alive.
If he ever dies, who will dare to live?
The sad earth will return to genesis.

When Grand Booby took a free ride to hell,
under the bleak, night filled elevated,
he left a pack of wolves in his last howl,
and suspicion — a poison-toothed punk.
Winds in Borough Park laugh his horse laughter.

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My First New Year’s Eve on Broadway

It was I, wistful as my barefoot town,
a lost, rawboned boy praying on Broadway:
God, if I must go astray O lose me
in dark woods enchanted by Elijah,
where his glance makes kind each brute in its lair,
where elves play with fire in the eyes of wolves.

This I learned, you cannot long anywhere,
as on the crooked lane where I was born.
You cannot see light as sad anywhere
as on a gay New Year’s Eve on Broadway.
The lights vanquish, riot, rout each other.
Each light seeks darkness as the darkness light.

The jolly horde roars as a beast of gloom.
The clamor overhead is like a whip.
The sun is condemned to immortal light.
It seems someone kidnapped the good, old night
and left the clowns to bargain the ransom.
Broadway, O grandeur of modern ennui!

The old year dies raging glory to doom
as if death were the fountain of triumph.
In my eyes — the warm, quivering lamplight,
in combat with the cold, crushing splendor.
A straw-roofed hut humbles the Great White Way.
Each frolic is avid of my sorrow.

Through Times Square as through a huge, garish den,
wayfares over tower-crowns my razed town,
where mute birds drag with their bills their clipped wings.
The moon is a base, yellow-fingered coin.
A brook complains, in vain, to hill and dale:
Not a shred, not a shade of wonder left.

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At a Patched Window

I am a lover, a pauper, and a poet.
My heart is clean beneath the threadbare shirt.
I learned wisdom from the Talmudic skies of Lithuania.
I am gracefully uncouth.
I cleaved my grace from the slums of New York.

My father like Columbus dreamed of America, when I was born.
My childhood wanned at a patched window,
where I imagined a cake soaring like a cherub,
where I saw candy, toys, and cocoa,
under the wings of a nymph only.

The cruel hand of destiny led us through hunger, war and plague.
We were four little brothers and a scrawny sister.
In the autumn garret we heard the song of Spring,
as crawling doves would hear the giggle of their craven victor.
The wind through redolent meadows was a bleak laughter.

O our weary mother carried us
through the prosperous thorns of our scared little town, Michaleshik,
From a fairy tale came the night — a spectral undertaker,
to bury the thorny day of Lithuania.
God was the baker from Eden who baked the tasty stars.

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At a Cup of Coffee

I write these lines to
you, unpolished as your name,
unmeasured as love.
My private island is a
table in a coffee shop.

Just an hour sojourn,
in self served meridian
splendor. I daydream
safaris on dazed camels.
Broadway is a crude cart road.

The safaris crushed
on rock, skull and cliff of the
nerve ridden city;
echoed and reechoed through
the hoarse air of Manhattan.

A cup of coffee
is my shield. A trance
eludes the jam on Times Square.
It is coffeetime — chat time,
from dawn to dawn in New York.

O the humble joy
of a cafeteria,
detouring hell with
you and glowing friends at a
cup of coffee — cup of dreams.

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On Blueprints

I saw on blueprints
the engineer’s dream. I saw
New York dawn in the
farthest era — a young myth,
ascending for love and light.

I heard tomorrow’s
subterranean cities,
merrily roaring
under a fortunate earth.
I saw America fly

to the nearby Mars.
O steel nerved poet of the
cautious motor and
the daring propeller: I
saw you build the eighth heaven.

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Teaching my Year Old Dovid to Walk

Come O come, light of foot my year old son.
Ho! With the dare of David, rise and fall.
Your fingers like stonelets out of the brook,
fate in hand — the valor of your people.

Sling Goliath with the aid of no one,
may he be six cubits and a span tall.
One more step, one more fall, ruddy son, look:
Eden is a toyland of year old people.

Steep hills, treacherous sands seem on the way,
fear not, a giant guard stands your father.
Your father’s hands are two forts to the right.
The home-made bear in wondrous woods is your shield.

May you see many decades beyond me dawn,
long — long after my last laughter, my last tears.

You have grown a man since the ninth of May.
Each step, like a giant’s, a mile farther.
To the left, your mother’s arms, girlish, slight:
a longing cradle with lullabies filled.

After every fall O how good to rise.
(To rise a child at dawn falls at dusk the sun.)
You chatter the secrets the naiads say,
in waves against rocks, in dance of the stream.

My father’s lost skies are blue in your eyes.
From roots to stem to crown we are ever one.
O speak English, Hebrew, the tongue of fays,
in Yiddish, you are — I, light of the same beam.

Find me in the wind on David’s harp, my son,
Playing my thirst for you to the end of years.

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When my Three Year Old Son will be Fifty Three

When you will be fifty three as I am today,
will still be left of me, at dusk, a single glow.
Looking at the twilight you will at random say:
my dad is dead long ago, dead long, long ago.

It may be on the streets of New York or Tel Aviv,
you will one day by reminiscence overrun,
see me as you do now ever and anon live,
see me longing in your eyes, my three year old son.

I will be the young sadness of each new sunset.
My poems: gold-lit boats on earth and sky will sail.
Yiddish in your mouth — a brisk, hasty rivulet
will flow agile, beyond me over hill and dale.

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A Yiddish Poet

I am a Yiddish poet — a doomed troubadour,
a dreamsmith jeered by the soft-voiced yokel,
the smooth snob with the swinging lash shrieking: jargon!
O are the mocked tears of my people a jargon?

formed as Adam of the dust of the four corners of the earth;
the quenchless blaze of the wandering Jew,
the thirst of the deserts.

My mother tongue is unpolished as a wound, a laughter,
a love-starved kiss,
yearnful as a martyr’s last glance at a passing bird.
Taste a word, cursed and merciless as an earthquake.
Hear a word, terse and bruised as a tear.
See a word, light and lucent, joyrapt as a ray.
Climb a word- rough and powerful as a crag.
Ride a word — free and rhymeless as a tempest.

The bare curse thrown against the might of pitiless foes.
A “black year” shrouding dawn after a massacre.
The mute call of each speechless mouth of Treblinka.
The prayer of stone to turn into gale.

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The Conqueror

God, to whom will you come to atone for your sins,
when the last man falls, the last cries on earth — unheard,
when razed cities will pray to you in silenced din?

A thorn-wreathed lea where the Empire State has been.
Ruins in deep slumber not by a living voice stirred.
God, to whom will you come to atone for your sins?

Fall in Spring will gild forever all that is green.
Midas will lead us as an infinite gold herd.
God, come to the razed cities, pray to the hushed din.

Moon-browed alchemists will turn silver into tin.
Death will die like you and I, good, evil, beast, bird,
for no one will live or die, no one will sin.

The serpent — victor of Eden, hunger-worn, skinned,
will hiss at broken-winged cherubs on sterile earth.
Through razed cities will roar loudest the mute din.

The last war between death and death Satan will win,
will guard the tree of life with flaming sword girt.
God, in virtued ennui, you will miss as light our sins,
when razed cities pray to you in silenced din.

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Still Life of the Year Two Thousand

Isaiah — a chained prophet in the valley of vision.
A venomed child plays in the den of a kind basilisk.
Fire in wind turns the pages of a lone prayer book.

A dance of merry chimeras.
A heavenless God wailing through the ruins of Moscow.
Hand-made stars are serfs to darkness and to sin.
Jesus nailed to the cross again.

Fallen towers are twisted, steel dales in Manhattan.
Broadway is an old fire-bug.
The twentieth century is a young tomb.
The sun, gory-sceptered, frozen and blind.
And I am still a spark of the dazzling legend — New York.

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On History

What is history,
if not a sea maniac,
who counts each swept wave?

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On The Birth of my Son

My son, I am so
affluent with beginning
that if I die now
God will see me as first light
and he will say: “It is good."

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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.

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A Furnished Room

The silence of walls
has claws, teeth. A wolf threatens
to leave the painting.
A clock on the maimed table
is near a time disaster.

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On Freedom

No freedom is free.
Doomed we stand in endless row,
free-tongued slaves of death.
Free are birds on wings of hail
which never reach day or night.

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Shangri La

How sad,
you do not know,
I am the Yiddish long forgotten poet from Shangri La.
I came to you from a neighboring century,
openarmed as a tree in a dream.

How sad,
you do not know,
At daybreak, I am your prime admirer,
born anew, day in, day out,
awaiting you skyclad, eager as the light of dawn.
At sunset, I am your dying lover,
thirst maddened as the dust under your feet,
following thrill-crazed each of your indifferent steps,
wearing away in the waning twilight.

How sad,
you do not know,
all around you,
I am the yearning wind from a desolate alley,
playing serenades to you on God’s flute.

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To Rivke

I roved, moon in, moon out,
against a hard-eyed city sky,
in vain search for you
through the modern jungles of New York, — till I saw you as one of Terah’s broken idols,
limp up and down the Empire State building:
the dream-haunted ladder of Manhattan.

Now, on my way to you,
I see you chosen, petite and comely
among the tall daughters of Heth
as the tiny land of Israel
among the huge nations.
Distances contend to be nearest to one another,
to shorten the endless subway-ride
to the Brooklyn princess of Borough Park.

Now, you are mine
as if you walked out of one of my ribs
longing for me since the beginning of time.

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A Rejected Poem

A rejected poem,
only by the live silence of stones heard.

It lives only where the accurst have been.
On the lips of the doomed the unspoken word.

The word on lonely tombs by no one read.
The word which finds no rest as Noah’s dove.

O poems,
I shape them of my bone and aching earth.

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My Last Poem

This is my last poem, a death-bell each rhyme.
All the days are locked, the key thrown away.
When I reach the last line is the end of time,
the end of life and death of night and day.

These last words as condemned steps to gallows lead.
The sun — a golden noose in hangman’s hand.
Beyond me, glowing, furrow-cloven, I leave
in lone metaphors my women stranded,

sensuous, longing for my manful touch in vain.
Women I know from a hundred years hence,
yearning for me as parched soil for plough and rain,
wave hands of tomorrow to my last glance.

The end ends at the beginning, before birth,
before ghost and ghoul, before heaven and earth.

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Subway Reverie

Where is the saddest twilight in the world,
if not in a subway train where a stray
moth roams under a dour electric sky,
seeking meadow sweets in the day’s full sweat.

I sway on a strap as a circus bear.
The moth — my daydream in this dreamless train,
a flickering whim moving the concourse,
is about to dash into my poem.

It is Mammon’s train of iron, gall, gold.
If it stormed through my trainless, lulled childhood,
I would see it through the cave of a myth,
chattered in the mud charms of my village.

The moth is weary, it is time to die.
She chose a sash like a chimney corner,
the only standing room left to die here,
in the rush-hour of the crowded subway.

The roar triumphs over a routed day.
Death is here as near as the dying moth,
as near as its first and last duskless dusk,
the end of time is near enough to touch.

O if there were only a sunset here,
underground, in the summer felled evening,
the sun would kneel, in awe, at the drooped wings,
as at the rites of the graveless goddess.

The moth is the last prayer of the day,
I see it through me as a speck of fright.
It dies (as I will) in a wild daydream
and moulds a shade of grief on the tomb sash.

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The paperweights on my desk are wondrous
as the hand which charmed them with carved legends,
with dueling knights and shield-maidens, with
brides who blush in castles, waiting for me,
the prince of the ennui of Borough Park
to wake them from a hundred years of sleep,

with the fire of an undying kiss, with
the touch of Genesis to give them life:
my harem of fabulous concubines,
guard day and night each scrap of my daydreams,
poems still unborn which climb mountain-high,
threaten to erupt in volcanoes, to
explode the ages of time-metaphors,
bury me alive under blazing rock.

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My City

New York, city of refuge,
from listless calm, stoic ease,
welds its own skies, the fate of
live steel, drills its own lightning,
streets compete with galaxies.

Towers at dawn are rising
torchbearers, dust remembers
when alchemists built Babel
with the iron of alchemy,
when lovers lived forever.

New York, city laureate
of cities, vies with seven
wonders and always wins, sees
a Broadway on the moon, day
dreams the Genesis of man.

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O the streets of New York are glorious.
Here comes Gwendolyn, bride of my city,
subdued by the grandeur of her own charm.

She walks on Broadway like a street born waif,
confluent crowds demob in her presence.
The Great White Way is struck with true wonder.

Shrill multitudes are, near her, music-mad.
Lovers languish in ruthless yearning, name
her in dreams: jewel of Jamshid, torch of night.

Pampered in gossamer, slender witted,
as if she were spun in clear autumn dawns,
by small spiders out of floating cobwebs;

adept in the craft of stealing the bloom
of the cheeks of her wan, rival sisters
she knows, the prettiest rose is dungbred.

The sun sets like an exploded heaven,
trapped angels cry havoc to Gwendolyn.
Her splendor on the streets of Manhattan
torments the gods, good old Satan and me.

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Twilight on Lincoln Square

How sad to see Lincoln in cold marble,
on the grand stand of the hero market,
iron-souled through twilight — a torch of fright.
Looking at his shadow on the glum Square:
the outstretched arms remind of prison bars,
the trimmed beard as a weird bird, clipped and stoned.

It seems, he did not turn into God’s dust.
The sculptor has so smitten him with joy,
he fears he may not know sadness again.
A visitor gripped by infinity,
he fears he is doomed to live forever,
he fears the earth may rob him of his grave.

Dusk urns the last fires of the Civil War.
Chaste ladies come with roses and spent love.
The sun is like a goblet in his hands,
to revel with every fellow mortal:
mouse and king, gnat and eagle, moth and child,
a toast for every fellow guest on earth.

Night. Old devils dream of new chimeras.
Tramps snore in muck as in beds of roses.
Rise O rise Lincoln, I see a cloud change
into a tree, the tree into gallows,
the hangman’s image over your free Square.
Dawn. Lincoln rose out of his locked statue,

not a hero, but the humble Abe from
the steep ridges of Kentucky backwoods.
He rose in dreams of a vagrant poet,
a ragged chieftain of a homefelt bench,
the charm-struck visionsmith of this poem.
Lincoln rose through me — a new Genesis.

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Twilight in Coney Island

O the garish god
of Coney Island, shrieking
down tower and town,

the wild bore argus
eyed, half lion, half goat with
a dragon’s tail, bores

to death even death;
dulls the flaming sword which guards
every entrance to Eden.

A stray moon scales through
the hysteria of lights,
to eclipse the dusk:

festival of fire — fiends, man-made suns, counterfeits
of my century.

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Welcome June to the slums of my city.
Even condemned tenements celebrate
your arrival. Flowers tramp through bright slop,
dress like elves in all colors to greet you.

Skies, nearby, wreathe garlands out of soot on
crooked walls, pave with gems the bleak alleys.
God’s breeze spins a yarn, only wise babies,
dandelions and little birds understand.

A hermit dog — the homeless philosopher
of the slums meditates at midnight blue.
The moon dumps its silver in charmed sewers,
as if to get rid of its counterfeit.

Cats marry under starlit canopies,
mewing their love to all past and future Junes.

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Old Manhattan

Sundown. God, I am lonely, I will go
to the whorealleys of old Manhattan
and fetch me a jolly liberal bride.

The evening is drunk with its own wine on
our wedding bed, you will be my wife an hour,
I, your lover — a thousand and one nights.

I am all yours, my unmothered, unowned love:
I swear by the ecstasy of our trance,
by the hatched shadowbands of this twilight.

Night bears the commerce of licensed kisses,
the law ridden guardians of humdrum,
bereaved of you and me, of our soulquake.

You left, O firefooted elf of the streets.
The summer, greensick, cankers on cracked walls.
Flowers in a pot pine for home — the far fields.

My bride coquets through the blight of slummed streets:
wholesale dealers in smoke, iron, gold, death,
praying through the ages for their downfall.
Even time is tired here of night and day.

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Roses of Borough Park
unrhymed, twin sonnet

Rivke, little as a child, my comely wife.
The color of sadness is hazel brown in
her eyes, fresh as the cut heart of tulipwood.
Her father’s dreams, pennywise, age like wine stains

in this house, old as a legend when young Pan
was here the god of goats grazing the rooftops
of this parkless Borough Park in bleak Brooklyn.
The sun rises like a thriving pennybank.

Homespun tedium is brightest at highnoon.
The world is on sale in every show window.
Stores teem with earlocks and gems, wigs and garlic.
Salestalk proves knitted apples are from Eden.

Sellouts undersell cheap riches dyed on gowns,
harvest home the untilled fields of Borough Park.

The end of all seasons is here all year round.
Wares are ever the last sheaves, sold at the spear.
Men hunt down bargains like buffaloes and bears.
Alice in plastic woods dreams of wonderland.

Women (the only roses in Borough Park)
against cut throats hunt large prey in packs like wolves.
Their summers under the grim elevated:
iron knotted, screeching like trapped owls for life.

The street is a patched luxury at twilight.
Rivke — Rebecca riding on a camel
to her first love with a grace that never dies.
I am locked in her eyes — a self chained captive.

A prankster, bred in her bones, willed like David,
roams here with bittersweets of her prince poet.

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A Will
unrhymed villanelle

I leave a pennyworth of dust,
an undying swan song, my son,
the great will of the infinite.

For you my every highbred whim,
the dugout ore of each caprice,
the sage meditations of dust,

the might of my obstinacy:
rock-reared, tested by the patience
of time, probed by zeal, infinite.

For you the vagaries of the
storm-drenched vagrant — the regal rogue,
his life and death divine as dust.

Beware of the dawn of ennui,
twin of the turtle; night is for
owls, old tales and the infinite.

Death is a game the cherubs play.
Just a slight change from dusk to night.
I leave a pennyworth of dust,
the great will of the infinite.

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Day of Doubt

My last day is as glorious as the first.
It is dawn yet. I am still so rich with time,
until I fall at sundown from a roof of gold.
I shall plan my life on my onliest day.
The first hours I shall give to you, Dovid,
my twelve year old miraculous brat,
heir of my unconquered zeal, my unwritten
poetry which you will muse, laugh, sing or cry,
flare the light-proof suns of the days beyond me.

We will keep our daily appointment with our
bicycles, ride a thousand years on each block;
ride in one hour back to Adam, then onward
to the end, to the origin. Then we will
explore the wilds of Times Square, applaud the
airborne horses, galloping with wild lovers.

as hoofbeats strike borders, distances join hands,
to reach the castles of shabby movielands.

˜ ˜ ˜

Then, I shall meet you, my love, to tell you how
blessed it is to live next to you, breathe the same air,
in the same century, on the same pillow,
navel to navel, fire to fire, seed to seed.

The twilight I will give the dusty goddess,
the widowed guardian of my poetry,
on mount Parnassus of my Brooklyn attic
where the first ray like the marvel of Peru
arrives at four P.M. to admire my poems
which seek their way to light through the ceiling.

The last moment I shall meet God eye to eye,
at the top of a tower, at the airport
of flying carpets — the first aeroplanes on earth;
flying through the splendor of selfchosen doom,
I will pilot an invisible monoplane,
as I land on my private isle of farewell.

But dusk, my love, is ages far and away.
It is still dawn, my day, my life is teeming
as a plucked pomegranate with sanguine seeds.

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At a Hundred and Twenty
unrhymed unrefrained chant royal

I see the year two thousand, twenty six.
There is still a jail in every town on earth
where jailers keep wistful summers under lock.
June in slum ganglands still smells of blossom blight.
Old tenements still pray for their destruction,
walls sigh through the nights like half sunken boats, stairs
still wind through dark ages, through guile, plot, terror.
The withered faces of bygone autumns still
haunt the first Spring snowdrops in cheerless backyards.
Chubby whores entice with opulent bosoms.
Presidents still babble of great societies.

The hammer is still raised against its maker,
the red sickle is a gentle guillotine,
peddlers still promise bearskins, ages before
the bears are caught. The toadeater, the servile
inkslinger still serenades the antiwar
warmongers, the Fedorenko marauders.
Abraham, the openarmed father of the Jews
with a beard out of the Bible, with love locks,
still builds little Jerusalems in old Brooklyn, —
the grim light of Auschwitz smolders in his eyes.

When storms rise the dust of my forgotten grave,
I am great news to the retired, yawning grass.
Only Dovid, my son, at three score and ten,
(now in his twelfth May) knows I once lived and died,
remembers me a frolic boy of sixty,
celebrates my hundred and twentieth birthday.
The sky is like an open Book of Splendor.
Stars, rusteaten, under the elevated
subway still rehearse our twin childhood, (his — first,
mine — second) play hide and seek through the fissured
attics, the crosseyed castlets of Borough Park.

My son, while you live there is heaven and earth
and I am here at a hundred and twenty,
(O shout Menke, my son, I am the echo.)
Waiting for the beginning when Eve, a novice
will come to borrow a rib of my ribs.

˜ ˜ ˜

It is the year of two thousand, forty six: “I died in nineteen seventy four, when did
you die, Dovid, my son?” I just died, Menke,
a young yearnful ninety, soon after the fourth
world war when man bombed the earth off its orbit,
back to chaos, to the formless infinite.

"At my last sunset I saw even Noah
sink with his ark, an olive leaf lulled in the
mouth of a stiff dove was the only peace left,
in a glum world, destitute of you and me.” “O hear, wind to wind, soul to soul, brook to brook
thirst each other forever, Dovid, my son.
I end this chant of love to you at sixty one,
standing in a subway train, in glowing health,
on August twenty first, nineteen sixty seven,
as crowds choke the summer day on this blue Monday,
at five p.m. in our ever new New York.

An infant over a mother’s newspaper,
reads the unwritten verse of the nightingale.
Wonder is real as the man on the nearby moon.
I see Cain and Abel beyond evil asleep.
The earth vies with the heavens, wins Genesis.

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Little Woman
(to Rivke)

My little woman standing nude at the
mirror is from head to toes midsummer,
fragrant with the grape which is still uncasked wine.
End of July, glory of her season.
The harvest moon will rise (ripe, not for reaping)
with wondrous fruits, unknown to any autumn.

Night. A conflagration of planets revolves
around her navel, the middle kiss spot.
The center the flame of the enchanted bush
like the humble seed can not be consumed.
Every evil is crushed in our whirl dance.
The stars over us are a fire hazard.

We are rowing with one oar from Eden
to hell and visa versa, back to birth,
on to death, reborn again, cleansed through fire,
redeemed from the devil of dust, we are
all light, even death is a shade of light.
We come from light, we return to light.

Our rowboat (entrance to the beginning
and end of life) is miraculous as
the creation of Eve, our pulse is the
rhythm of the cosmos, our fervid moments
are hymns to the penis, the true god of love,
(debased by debasers) blaze to the core, knows
the agony of drought more than any desert,

rising as a self-assassin, he is
the first one to fall in the winter solstice.
We relish, a minute, the glacial climate,
our little ice age. My little woman
is plowed, hoed, tilled, (she is always hard to plow)
fertile with the rain of immortality.

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Razed Village

Since the last organ grinder died in New York,
the wind is the only street musician left
to dirge forever my mother’s razed village.

O her vanished village filled America,
grieved New Jersey with its own desolation,
yearned at twilight over the Passaic River.

Birds on hoar Jefferson Street still serenade
over and over in divine monotone
of psalmists the coy sameness of her village.

She trod warily on stones for she knew well,
only stones are in love with true solitude.
She saw a mossed rock meditate like a sage.

Forsaken alleys, at dusk, wind like scorched dreams
the sun like Satan raises a toast to hell,
but the calm of stones can soothe even cursed Job.

O the days ebb like a travel-worn river,
around low lands which were once avid hilltops.
Spring. Clouds turn into thirsty rills on the streets.
The wind returns all lost seeds back to its soil.

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Elchik and Dveirke
unrhymed unrefrained chant royal

Elchik, my brother, you died at seventeen.
You will be ever and ever seventeen
as on the wonder island of Bimini.
No retreat is as good a haven to yearn
for you as on the thronged streets of Manhattan,
no solitude solemn as dusk on Times Square.
Subways in the rush hour know my hymn to you
when crowds flock as if to celebrate their
next to live, the adventure of being born,
shout down the city: Ho ! Waiting in endless
row of ages since Genesis, we arrived!

You saw your last sunset in Michaleshik,
our hometown devoured by retreating armies,
limping to their death on Lithuanian
bareboned earth. You died longing for your maiden
Dveirke bound by an oath at the open ark
of the moonlit synagogue that your love will
live as long as Spring, flowers and bees will meet.
Moses walked out of the Torah to witness.
The creek rolled like the pilpul of the Talmud,
drowned in dispute of the wise sages who live
in the mirror of the river Hiddekel.

O good to find our lost hometown in New York.
Shadows of buildings give shade to the same sky,
prankish cherubs play hooky on towerpanes.
A tower ascends like our town in a dream,
the hovels climb over one another,
reaching for the known unknown to remind God
it is time for Messiah to rouse the dead,
to wake the children massacred at their play
while kneading out of mud-pies a new Adam,
to resurrect the tattle of the mute hag,
every blot and blemish — the true signs of life.

Charon on a cloud ferries the dying day
through the dark memories of the river Styx,
a day smoke-eaten as an ashen alley
of my childhood against the howls of battle:
June was foul with the rootrot of red armies,
uterine brothers of plague breeding storm troops,
proclaimed free gallows for all creeds and races.
Poor Satan was a farmer with a gory
sickle, beheading Jews, God, Tartars alike.
The sun was like the gold head of King Midas,
the last rays pondered on spears, in love with death:

No kindness is as kind as comrade Death.
Kind is a felled tree made into a coffin.
True are flowers daunted in a mournful wreath.
No beginning is as gracious as the end.
Dveirke appears, stars hold her silver bride chest.
Left of her is her voice in sobbing rivers:
— Come my love out of the lovers of evil.
It is the end of grief, the end of Sheol.
The charred gibbet can only frighten itself.
The folks of hell break the sword guarding Eden!

˜ ˜ ˜

The city reborn, rides down the skyline drive.

Elchik, there is more wonder on Fifth Avenue
than in the hanging gardens of Babylon,
there is more legend in our casual chat
dallying with time at a cup of coffee
than in Scheherezade’s thousand and one nights.

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Vachel Nicholas Lindsay
unrhymed, unrefrained chant royal

I know the silence in the lonely house
where death is the only invited guest.
The walls are fierce with beasts living in paintings.
A zoo in watercolor cries for the woods,
in the green room where you were born and died.
Lionets yearn in gilded frames, rockfaced,
with mouths furious as tempests, learn to
roar at no one but their own wrath. Darling
snakelets, offsprings of anonymous artists
play with dangerous apples in Eden,
hiss at Adam and Eve, inventors of sin.

Night of December fifth, nineteen thirty one.
The late autumn is now the town crier,
announcing the end of Vachel Lindsay.
A weeping birch is your only mourner.
Even the winds in Springfield Illinois
are crazed with your musicomania,
conduct a ragtime band, serenade you
like dead musicians playing in a dream:
bass bassoons, alto flutes, plaintive oboes.
Winds suicide raging against cliffed walls.
Even the aged windowpanes rock and roll:

Hallelujah, here is William Booth, the
general of the humble, marching out of
your poem as out of the drum of the doomed,
leading kneeling armies, noble riffraff prays:
We are all descendents of misfortune.
Every blade of Spring is in touch with autumn.
All children see Satan at birth, guardian
of evil, hear his voice of hell, he speaks
to us the kind language of death showing
each newborn the last tear before the first smile.
This is why no child ever smiles at birth.
Our nearest and farthest ancestor is dust.
Even dust in wind moans against its mission
of awaiting us as a final host
who swallows each and every guest on earth.
Yet, all children are teeming with the wonder
of being born, the naked limbless child
of the mother worm, prejudiced since the
beginning of time, as well as the eagle.
All, all children are welcome to heaven.

˜ ˜ ˜

Night of Yahweh, a night, a scaremonger
which could pluck the feathers off Poe’s raven.

Vachel, Chang’s one winged nightingale is singing.
Do you feel like Keats as though of hemlock
you had drunk, as you raise a cup of poison,
the strongest toast to your fifty two summers?
Dawn. A cricket in the throat of the chimney
hides from the sun to weep in the darkness
of solitude. A mouse prowls so gently
even God has to strain to hear its curse.
Your last thoughts rise to strangle the daybreak
which crowns the skeletons of a blanched flowerpot.
Your dawn, plagued forever by the throes of birth.

Vachel Nicholas Lindsay, do you know
I am writing your unwritten poem,
in this crooked attic of Borough Park?
If you do not know you ever lived, you
never lived or died, you are sheer wonder.

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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.

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Tempest in Borough Park

Come my
love, it is
the same whirlwind
which took Elijah
to heaven. Some lightnings
convert into chariots,
some into fire-horses. Let us
meet God like Elijah, stormwashed, cleanse
the light where smiling horrormongers stood.
The tempest is weary, fearing sleep, it still
keeps alive by dancing horas on the tired streets,
with feet of dust, hands of wind, the sphinx of Borough Park.
Last drops of rain, through sunset, are rainbow chasers. Itchy
cats, with fleas in their ears, piss gold: the terror of the ages.

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Listening to Little Richard
(for Shelley and Claudia)

Little Richard, ye-ye-ye, true music is wonder and terror.
I hear winds rock and roll since the beginning of night and day.
True-true-true, music is storm-armed, splitting rocks — stoned ennui.
Music is earthquake, rising from under the sea to
topple cities. Music is a wave-gang shouting:
Little Richard roll and rock heaven and earth.
The cries of fallen angels in your voice.
Whipped prisoners shriek, in vain, for help.
Black slaves rush out of your blues, bind
their jailers in their own chains.
Africa marches, clap
warning hands, stamping
bare feet, drum to
triumph, to
first dawn.

O hear Little Richard shout between the devil and the deep blue sea:
ho-ho-ho, hoo-hoo-hoo, ha-ha-ha, music is a rage which sweeps
us all away, shock-waves rocking America, cities fall
over one another, Satan leading the dance of death,
Heaven-heaven-heaven, throwing Eden down-down-down.
Hell-hell-hell rolling in its own fire-storms, returns
the hundred and ninety six thousand worlds back
to pre-genesis darkness. New York is
the valley of hinnom; god moloch,
music-mad, applauds the cries of
dying children who rock and
roll on blazing altars.
Little Richard is
lulled in a bed
of lava.
Sha! Peace!

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O fellow mortals, let us guard our immortal guardians.
The cherry blossoms, in their midst, blush with the venom of
diamond rattlesnakes, their violets bite with the wrath
of mad dogteeth. O they may burglarize even
the ghost of Washington, bleed white the heavens
of Jefferson, Paine, Lincoln, may yet take
America on a last ride, may
cash the sun as the head of a
squealer, at the twilights of
Watergate where shadows
are masked angels, pledge
allegiance to
the saint of

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The Witch of Borough Park

The witch of Borough
Park mixed in her witches’ brew
my last, handsomest
sunsets, drove my late dreamboat
through fire, the pirate of dreams.

The fire burst into
bloom, each blaze — a rose of Pig
Street. Ye, a true witch
flew over me on a broom,
night and day until she swept

me into a charmed
bottle. I am a corked soul
damned to call for help
until the last cry on earth,
until Messiah will come.

Each star — an evil
eye sees me in revels of
the witches’ sabbat
in gloom of midnight when they
swear allegiance to the lord

of flies: Beelzebub,
as they tear me asunder,
limb by limb, until
left of me are only nails
torn out of my toes, fingers.

Stars are in constant
search for loopholes to escape
the skies like the eyes
of the doomed seeking freedom
through the bars of their deathcells.

The witch of Borough
Park applauds with cheering
hands as she sees me
vanish like cursed smoke through the
chimneys of the gas chambers

where the lovers of
the dreams of my potato
village burned alive.
O save me gracious Satan
from the witch of Borough Park!

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In the year of Three Thousand and One
(on the atomic war)

The vision of Menke, the son of Heershe Dovid,
the poet of potato folk of the village
of Michaleshik. I see the end of all
life on earth, in the year of three thousand
and one: end of man, bird, king, hangmen.
The unborn welcome all beyond
time. Winds will telltale of a
bygone world. Not an ear
left to listen. God
will hide in fear
of the thug:

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March of the Dead
(for my father Heershe Dovid and my mother Badonna)

I call upon all the Jews in heaven and on earth to join the march
of the dead — a death-march against God for playing deaf at the
wailing of our comely folks, gassed in the gas chambers of
Auschvitz, Treblinka, Ponar as he sat throned in the
rare luxuries of Eden. O see my dauntless
ancestors in the God awful march, waving
prayer shawls like flag alarms. Sad little
shoes of dead children knock-knock, march-march.
The living and the dead stride in
measured steps through the valley
of Hinnom, until God
leaves the heavens, joins
the endless
death march.

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Mother Tongue
(for my son Dovid)

Wherever Yiddish
is mute as the dust on my
grave, spoken only

by dust-mouths in the
wind, there I never lived or
died, was never born.

Wherever Yiddish
mingles with the ashes of
my scorched village there

crawl wingless angels,
there will weep God to the end
of his creation.

O hear my mother-
tongue in Spring, in the busy
brook, see it winter

adorn with frost dreams
the windowpanes of the birch
hut where I was born.

O meet my uncle
Chaim the blacksmith when he
hears the iron speak

Yiddish on firebeds
as Moses heard God’s voice out
of the Burning Bush.

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To Rivke

Rocks with
faces of
gods bathe in our
stream, at the side road.
Ours is the secure shade
of the old forest house. The
roving waters will serenade
you centuries beyond our last dusk.

O even
serpents are now
peaceful as rainbows.
Rivulets play love with
each other, coalesce in
constant embrace. Naiads reared in
our stream, lulled in rockbeds, lullaby

our son’s
yet unborn
children. Waters
rush on in diverse
cycles, the echoes pine
away craving each other.
Even the stinkweeds are not love-
proof, are in love with their own shadows.

Let us
run amuck
from the throngs of
great white ways, mobs of
cities are like desert
locusts. Solitude is here
the guardian angel of our
love, my mellow eyed little woman.

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Beyond Nineteen Eighty Nine

I died in the year
of nineteen eighty nine. All
life on earth and
in heaven died in me. Without
life, even God is Godless.

I am alive as
hope, as dust of which Adam
was made, young as
the youngest darkness before
there was light, sorrow, mirth: world.

There is not a ghost
here in this sky-born ghostland.
Time — the only ghoul
who robbed all my nights and days
is now timeless as I am.

Good to be free of
good and evil, free even
of death for none of
us here beyond our last step
are aware that we are dead.

I shall wait for the
second call of Messiah
when all the dead will
rise and all the graves will bloom,
in the Garden of Eden.

I shall be Menke
again, chat, light winged, with friends,
at a wine table,
drink lechaim in heaven
to my love of long ago.

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On Old Age

Learn to
revere the
glorious dusk
of old age. The chill
of the last days of the
summer is blessed with harvest.
The farthest distances are the
closest. Dreams are real as root and sap.
April Fool is seen on September hill
tops. The senses are keen as of the woodchuck
who smells November a moon ahead. The end is
sacred as dust of which Adam is made. Be prompt
for reaping as a ripe apple of Eden. Solitude
will outlive heaven, darkness is infinite as the unknown.

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In the Year of Two Thousand

my twenty
eight year old son,
good to see you in
the year of two thousand,
in mid-August of your life,
when I will be a near and far
memory to you. O I know how
I will yearn for you, biting my own dust.

You may
still dream of
me as a torn
leaf dreams in wind to
return to its father
tree. You may see my poems
burn, in late autumn, in the sad,
flickering gold of the tamaracks,
before the needles fall in splendid death.

O see
my life cleansed
by the brisk light
of the first frost, at
dusk, when the scorched sun wheels
as a windfall apple, hear
me calling you as a brook locked
beneath ice: O-Ho Heershe-Dovid
you are beyond my last night, my first dawn.

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Chant Menke

Dovid, son
of my every
longing, each wonder,
handsome as my poems.
I write these lines to you in
dull Borough Park, at midnight. Stray
cats meow the birds and Spring away.
The moonborn angels guard the ailanthus,
the tree of Brooklyn-gods — the tree of heaven.

in squalor
of our backyard,
fly the tree through the
dreams of haunted forests
which scare the ax out of the
woodchopper’s hands, break asunder
the unbreakable wings of death. The
polluted cherubim walk arm in arm
with unborn brides playing love under the eaves.

O see my poems made of your and my bone,
of your and my marrow, touch the nerveroots
of my restless similes, like the
fires of torches through night and wind
and you will know that you are
I, and I am — you, a
selfsame twin, half of
you, born two score
and ten years

We are
both children,
astray in an
enchanted forest
where the deer and hunter
are pals, butcher knives break bread
with God, kill birthday cakes, slaughter
apples, fruit of Eden, though I hear
wild geese cry that hunters will plow the fields
with guns, until winds will tire of their wander.

I see
kings, hangmen,
presidents, bores,
bumpkins, descendants
of the first serpent on
earth, their evil cleansed by the
sly tongues of lickspits, the hawk-eyed
peddlers of tears, booming the thriving
prosperity of graves, wreathe Old Glory
into bouquets of ghosts, of all dead soldiers.


I pledge
to the flag of
true hermits, escape
the fanfare of mobs, drums
the many-headed hooray
screechers, see the sun as a gold
medal which is the multiface of
death. Let us avoid Lucifer’s bleak laws,
all hermits pray to the god of the unknown.

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On Meeting my Son’s Grandchild

I will
meet death — the
truth of all truths
four years hence, my son.
I will see all my days
dwindle in the distance — a
dark speck will leave the dream endless.
A far away hand will wave to me
farewell. It will not be the end of
me. Some falling star will give me its last light.

My son, I met beyond my last thought of you
one of your unborn grandchildren who will
be the Poet Laureate of my
life and death, a dream’s throw from here,
a dream, authentic as the
days which will dawn beyond
me. I said: your name
like mine shall be
Menke, my
choice name,

exquisite as belladonna, the deadly
nightshade with poisonous berries which doomed
the comely folks on the starved fields of
my childhood, the name with the guts
of a rose, hewed out of rock:
Rockrose, born in fires of
my Burning Village,
still dreaming of
the Land of

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Darwin in a Furnished Room at Midnight
(a study of cockroaches)

I see Darwin walk out of his godless
heaven on a moonlit windowpane,
bowing to every cockroach of
this bleak room, he says: Hi! grandfolk
roaches, forefathers of
man, survival of
the fittest. Hail
makers of

All stars join the army of cockroaches,
as they march out of their dark, moist cracks.
American cockroaches, great
Yankees, star-struck travelers
of unknown seas, among
the first sailors with
Columbus to
find a world
in dreams.

Cockroaches trained in speed by mother night,
since the first buds burst in bloom on their
family tree, two hundred and
eighty million years ago.
Bedbugs panic, fear of
being devoured, grubs
are welcome to
the gloom of

O sport fans of America, let us
cheer the champion roaches which outrace
here all wingless creatures, such as
blister mites, seeking to gall
pear trees, under the bed;
jumping spiders which
court their brides with
dance around
their pray.

June bugs, aristocratic fig eaters
begin a race-riot, surround the
frightened lamp, menace the rights of
stinkbugs. Dawn. As if touched by
King Midas, all bugs wear
gold tails. Even the
sun rises here as
a goldarn

Cockroaches are the true citizens of
the world, dine at the homemade dung of
India as well as at the
starlit garbage of New York;
roaches loved by the moon
since dust fought God, spurned
his command to
turn into

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A Furnished Room at Sunset

It seemed
God weary
of heaven and
earth chose to die here
on the windowpanes of
the garret, in this cheerless
rooming house. I see God fall as
if stabbed by a thug who robs all the
gold of all the dying days, since Adam.

scale the room,
to weave a wreath
of forget-me-nots,
which fade ages on the
wallpaper gnawed by sterile
termites. Socrates on a blurred
painting still holds his cup of hemlock
drinking a toast to the condemned sun.

A lost
pigeon strays
between blind walls
(which climb against the
curse of Babel) cooing:
God is dead! The wings dyed with
smoke, it flutters through hell of brick,
din, steel, back to the Eden of its
first ancestor, to the wild-wood rock dove.

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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.

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The Message

O ask
any wind
to read to you
the message which we
unborn children send each
daybreak through the seven arch
angels (who guard our souls in the
seventh heaven) to the queen of the
cities — New York, crowned as the slaughtering
capital of the unborn humanity
of America: (voted unanimously,
at a heavenly assembly) We, the unborn New
Yorkers, such as the brides of tomorrow, deprived of our
glowing bridebeds, we vanished pilots, poets, presidents, shoe-
shiners, astronauts — protest our doom without trial and error,
to mix our souls with the witches’ brew before we are born,
on the altar of the devil Moloch, to move our
Genesis to the end of time. — To solve the drab
austerity budgets of our penny pinched
mothers, we leave, on sale, our unshed tears:
gems, to open jewelry shops in
hell, for all the death-wise who junk
unborn children in their wombs,
to spill our dawns like beans,
change our lives into
porkpies, nightmares,
of fiends.

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(beyond the atomic bomb)

The dove from Noah’s
ark will drop its olive leaf
and change into a
vulture with a naked head,
with carrion in its mouth.

The last man on earth
will turn into a mouse in
a trap, squeaking for
help to death but death will be
bombed out of heaven and earth.

The last Eve will be
a maimed fly in a cobweb,
spidered in a silk
shroud — a zooming doll of fear,
will frighten God down his throne.

You, I, he and she
will be kind sheep, the angels
of peace, under the
knife of the slayer, crying:
Hallelujah, death is here!

Satan who leads
the downtrodden, the cursed,
the doomed away from the

will save
us from saint ghoul:
lover of graves, medaled
dead, our saviors — the divine

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In Sterile Days

A pen
is a splinter
in the eye. I fear the
pen more than the sword. Oh vanish
cursed pens.

Our black
cat Midnight writes
on snow, with her steps, my
unwritten poems which all cats
can read.

I screw the nine sister-
goddesses of poets.
I laugh like a hyena, cry

I hear
a dying swan
sing its last song to me:
It is the end, the end, the end,

I know
I am doomed. Job
led one by one his six
thousand camels through my private

The witch
of Borough Park
tells me, I just died, hence,
I am young with death as at birth
with life.

I live
on the Isle of
Nowhere, who can find me
beyond night and day where the sun
is blind?

days. Time to pray
to fallen angels to
lead me to hell. Eden is a
cruel dream.

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Heaven Writing to Rivke
(in the year two thousand)

A ghoul
wandering through
the graves of New Jersey,
stole my fingers from my grave to
write these

to serenade
you on my orphaned man
dolin, Rivke, my charmed, little

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Visit at Midnight

Rivke, my little
woman, I came to you
at midnight, in this old
forest house where I died,
a fugitive from Eden.

See me
in our yestermoons,
on each windowpane, hear
me calling you, night and day, in
the wind.

See me
in the mirror
of the brook, across the
road. See me in each breakbud of
young Junes.

I came here to hide
from the pious eunuchs who
sit a thousand for
evers and again, under
the apple tree of Eden.

Come O
come with me to
make love in the valley
of hinnom, through the firestorms of
all hell.

Hell is
a haven for
you and me, for the doomed,
for loved Shemhazai, the fallen

Look, stars — the eyes of
our unborn children hide in
every crevice of
these weary walls, in fear of
birth — in fear of Eden.

Come O
come with me, my
little woman, we are
infinite in never-never,

In this poem we
shall live to the end of the
last lover on earth,
until we learn from dust the
language of silence, my love.

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Welcome to my Eightieth Birthday

a short span
to my eightieth birthday,
still left are not years but choice days
with you,

and wine, still left
are a thousand and one
wonders. When last days will shrink in
to hours,

I shall
split each second
into bits, every bit
undying as Adam’s first glance
at Eve.

O leave
for me, my love,
each night a blank page. I
will come to write my unwritten

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Gold Diggers

Michaleshik, village of my mighty
ancestors, bearded rivermen reared in woods,
with the chilled iron of axes in their glance,
foil the foe gnawing the root in its crib,
wean the saplings in their tree nurseries,
towing barges, drive onward to Eden:
Yiddish flowing as the Viliya river,
biting as the coarse teeth of a ripsaw.
Earthbred, illstarred gardeners with lucky spades,
digging potatoes like buried treasures,
gold diggers with potato forks ransack
the furrows stabbed with daggers of broken rock;
the potatoes – tricksters, play hide and coop,
in the tired earth of Lithuania.

A flock of roaming goats frolic around
the “hekdesh” where the beggars, the feeble,
the chronic derelicts loiter, grazing
the straw roofs blended with duff and leafmold,
hit by the evil eye of goat suckers;
the he-goats: whiskered, entranced goat-gods
gallop at midnight, in illuminous
ecstasy when terrorized by a falling
meteor, a mortal from paradise,
a fugitive from the night sky, breaking
away from the chains of infinity,
bringing the twisted lanes into the
solar ranks as if dilapidated
Pig Street and the seventh heaven are one.

Eden on Fridays is always nearby.
Angels visit here like next door neighbors,
assert that Elijah is on the way,
with the Sabbath feast for the sabbathless poor.
Badonna, mother of a craving fivesome,
depends neither on angels nor Elijah,
but on the miracle of her skilled hands
which pick the wood-sorrel, the berry-cone,
garlic, the pride of the lily family;
lentils, the value of Esau’s birthright,
sauce sweetened and stewed to a goody pulp,
the keen aroma of cool ciderkin,
made of the tasty refuse of apples,
of rootstock, the seed, stem and skin of the grape.

If not challahs fit for a silver wedding,
a roll, by the grace of blessed candlelight,
with a scent of honey for the Sabbath queen.
If not gefilte fish stuffed with savored crust,
a herring, humble as fresh waters, spawning
in sod huts, legends of the North Atlantic.
Mead, (call it wine with a raw grain of salt)
served in laurel pink goblets from pitchers
born by the hands of village potters, with
ears and lips of clay licking yeast, honey malt,
adorned through ghost-fire in underglazed colors,
stored in dark cellars to drink lechaim
to each breath of every creature on earth,
at the light of the long zero winter.

Children in the rapture of reveries
see their father Heershe Dovid in far
America, mining the gold of the silks
fondled in the factories of New Jersey:
The “hekdesh”turns into a castle of gold.
Elchik leads the human wreckage into
a world baked like a round kugel, the moon
of yogurt, the stars – crisp potato balls.
Berke rides a bear made of prime confetti.
Menke sees Jonah in the kind whale, welcomed
with milk and honey. Yeishke is about
to reach the sun as a plum of bonbon.
Bloomke, the only sister, cries over
spilled milk of crushed almonds, to nurse her
pampered doll made of the sweets of marzipan.
O the dream is swifter than the wind, it brought
America into Michaleshik.

Heaven on earth is in children’s eyes.
Who is richer in gold, America
or the sun? Elchik says: at dawn, the sun
is richer, at twilight, America.
Berke tells of a secret – a dream in New York,
paved with silver dollars like little moons.
Menke in “heder”confides, his father
Heershe Dovid (tall, yearning and handsome)
sailed the seas to change his jaded horse
for a gallant filly, the squeaking wagon,
for a two-wheeled pleasure carriage; to trade
the cow with the drying udders, hardly
enough for milksnakes, – for a herd of an
aristocratic breed with teats like milkwells.
Sunset. Yeishke sees the clouds sail like boats
with gold which dad sent from America.
Bloomke fears there may be a shipwreck in
the clouds and flood the village with gold.

O the singing Jews of Michaleshik:
O my unsung uncles, gloried horseshoers,
famed to shoe horses as they leap off the ground.
Jews with bodies like wrought metal; hammers
pride their hands over the anvils; felling
trees, hewing timber: robust, manful lovers,
lure the longing mermaids out of their streams,
to break their mirrors into dazzling charms,
to languish lovemad at their feet, to pine away,
on the mudlands of the Viliya river.

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White Little Goat
(new Chant Royal)

The house
is wondrous
as the woods where
it was born where trees
wounded by axe cry
havoc, bleed like humans. The
earthen floor is scented with June,
recondite with the seven leaves of
the dogrose. Mother Badonna hears the
brook rocking like a cradle, chanting of a
white little goat bringing raisins, almonds, good luck.

Here is
wainscot chair, the
panels sunk, the posts
turned, the carved white stork with
a child in its red beak, on
its way to a barren woman,
the wings chopped in flight, left whole is a
quill to write the grim fate of its voyage.
The effaced designs still show signs they were once
lordly oak, the hurt bark aches even after death.

Dovid, the
father lives in
a huge picture in
the brightest corner of
the shadowed house, enjoying
home ease under a lambent glass:
the flickering doubts of the twilights,
and the distant fortunes of the good stars.
The light of the longing years are in his eyes,
his hands still wave bye from the horse and buggy,

as he
started his
venture to the
never, neverland
America. The mother
Badonna moves the heavy
picture from its snug shelter and
it falls leaving a gash in the wall
as deep as a grave, hurling the father
through a storm of corroded ages, glutted
with mildew-rot, through chips of glass, illfated as

mirrors, stoned
by the wall which
survived the firebrat
(a host of moons ago)
who yelled: fire! – as he leveled
the village to the ground, called for
help the good devils who live in myths.
The father on the battered picture with
a cleaved skull, still smiling under dust,
time, ashes, as if he were buried merrily.

The house on the bank of the river is like a
dreamboat, waiting here ages to tide across
the Viliya, to return to its trees,
to the nearby, dark forest. The winds
echo with the hopeful steps of
Messiah, calling the dead
to rise, to sail to the
Eden of Edens:
Ha! A! Me!
Ri! Ca!

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The children
see heaven as
a toyland where their
little aunt Beilke turns
the flaming sword which guards the
tree of life, as a merry-go-
round, she slinks through the eternal bars
of death to spin true fairytales again.
O she is wonder times wonder, her midget
jewelers (so tiny they stand in her ears) beat the
sun hollow to splendor the hovels of Pig Street. Night.
The children take a short cut through dreams, to America
where girls sleep in piebeds and boys suck boogymen of bonbon.

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Cry Wizards

All fools’ month.
The palms fool the
palmreaders, the stars
fool the stargazers. The
village of Michaleshik
echoes with the weeping of the
professional mourners, the elite
of the hekdesh, the beggar’s guesthouse, the
womenfolk with eyes like unloaded tear bombs,
cry wizards who gathered to fight the oncoming
German armor with lament, bewailing yesterdays
todays and tomorrows dead, form a wailing chorus with
the homeless, the barefoot wanderers of Lithuania.

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Two Armies

Two armies –two foes,
two iron generals in
their panoplies of
fierce splendor, in their evil
magnificence, from soul to

sole made of medals:
the seals of death, outdazzle
each other across
the cascades of the two banks
of the river, dauntless as

their machine guns, two
gloried desperados of
kaiser, sword and czar.
Under their heels surge small fry
sergeants, mace bearers, cringing

hoards; gunbright soldiers,
wise as their guns, beam with right
and left shoulder arms,
with rifle salute, super
shockmen learn the miracles

of the gospels to
stride the waters like Jesus,
the prince of peace, drill
in reconnaissance, race to
thwart counter reconnaissance.

Snipers – camouflaged
dreadnaughts, concealed in ridges
hide in the hellmouths
of stone devils, under the
brute eaves of cliffs, prying through

snoopscopes into each
others sly schemes. A stray light,
weary as if it
traveled centuries, reveals
treasures buried in legends.

Dew on bloodweeds are
Job’s tears, gems of misfortune.
A rosary of
a dead soldier’s fingers points
to a gaping sky as if

it were guilty of
his death. A cliff resembles
a blind Samson hewn
of fog, cloudbursts, lightning storms,
groping out of the ages.

Time shackled his mouth,
stoned his scorn; rooted in rock
he is from head to
toes a tightlipped, clenched prayer,
to regain his ancient might,

to down from pillar
to post both horrormongers,
the valiant doomsmen,
winners of human carcass,
the purebred lovers of hate.

Both foes, impatient
as fire for the command to
draw the triggers, to
rush death out, to turn into
dung every likeness of God.

Both intermingle
their shout songs: rah! –rah! Hurrah!
hurray! huzzah! yell
themselves hoarse for each other’s
throat. It seems barking barters

are here to compete
for their hellware, death is their
only buyer. The
riverway which transports the
timber of the wild forests

is a mirror of
cold steel: spears, foils, bayonets,
gleam in the hands of
terrorful cossacks bred on
the wrath of the fist, lulled by

the lullabies of
rattling musketry, suckled
from their mother’s breast
lust for fire, swinging sabers,
whips, scimitars; saw their panes

clawed with frostwork of
bleak Siberia, winged with
caspian sea fiends;
taught by the sword and buckler
only the game of playing

havoc, of riding
bare horseback on the kill, quick
to reach the skull, the
true emblem of conquest, the
ghastly flag of victory.

Both armies pledge: not
a mouth of the enemy
will be left here with
enough breath to tell of the
grand holocaust. The Germans

howl: yah! the earth will
whoop and holler with cossacks
buried alive, the
Russians swear: we will built of
German heads a triumph arch!

Both armies – both foes
bear the same witness: death, both
are about to swarm
to doom to ash the comely
village of Michaleshik.

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After Battle

O the vicious calm!
Even the owl on the roof
is afraid to hoot,
listening to disaster:
the steps of night intruders.

Calm is the language
of stones on the only paved
alley – the warpath
of strangling armies through the
village of Michaleshik.

Calm is the slumber
of unemployed plows, dreaming:
they cut, lift, turn the
soil, prepare the seedbeds in
deserted shops of blacksmiths.

Calm as the Godful
eyes of a lamb (a bleating
bundle of fear) which
plead for mercy under the
dazzling knife of the killer.

Calm is the tongue of
ghosts with long snouts and small tails
(of the slaughtered swine)
which haunt the forsaken barns,
smell the yellow blotches of

barley-scold, gnaw the
wheat and apple rot, leak the
milky stools stained with
the first milk of heifers, ride
on the skins of ponies, on

the yoke of oxen
who left here their sterile might,
their harnessed summers.
Calm is the wounded Saint Paul,
made by the saintmaker of

the village with a
heart of wax, eyes of fireclay,
a soul of melted
honeycomb, crying to the
cursed earth: O tomb of heaven!

Calm are the unmarked
graves of soldiers which keep rank:
loco and poke weeds,
corn cockle, the skunk cabbage
of starved Lithuania.

Hooded crows attack
the calm like carrion, crow
the names of unknown
soldiers, darken the twilight,
prophesy the end of days.

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Princes of Pig Street

September is as rich as King Midas.
The winds which shake the summer off a birch
remain with the curse of a golden touch;
as if the village cannot live without
the yearning of want it trades its prosperous
colors for the hue and clamor of the
moaning charlatans – the criers of autumn
which bring December in as a frozen ghoul.
Blackbirds cross the village to proclaim ill fate.
The owls in empty barns hoot disaster.
Mother Badonna hears a suspicious rumor
in every breeze: Germans, Russians, both foes,
prowl through the forest of Zaborchi,
both victors count each other’s carrions,
both fatten the naked heads of vultures.
Her lucky children, the princes of Pig Street:
Elchik, Berke, Menke, Bloomke, Yeishke,
still find crumbs of bread in the breadless basket,
their skullcaps adorned like crowns, in gaberdines,
woolen boots, winterbound, wealthy with the
dugout treasures of legends. Bloomke, their only
ever-blushing sister, her cheeks glowing
like apples of Sodom, kneads of the first snow
a laughing milkmaid, milking in two pails,
the snow like flakes of milk from the sky.

Still, as if some mystic command stopped every breath,
silence is a dumb, deaf and mute dragon.
Hush-sh-sh-sh, who is the strange horseman lurking
through the starry solitude of the village?
With one hand he guides his obedient
horse, with the other – the loaded carbine,
about to explode the calm of ages.
Each shadow resembles a Russian bear.
Vigilant: he is all-ear, all-eye.

Selah, the deadman’s dog, believed to be
of the celestial hierarchy,
the friend of the dead, drowsing at the
crumbling gate of the ancient cemetery,
suddenly awakes barking at the intruder
all the curses of the valley of Hinnom
(which Amy the sorceress claims as her
private property). O who would dare to
penetrate here the eternal night,
if not Satan in his ecstasy of sin?

Beilichke, the legendary whore or saint
of the village, the walking doll of Pig Street,
lures the German armies away like Joan of Arc.
Her body is in itself a blond market.
She is from head to toes – vendible charm.
Her flirting arse is worth a loaf of bread,
an enchanted slop and a soldier’s kiss.

Fire! Horses groan in burning stables.
A Bible burns in limbo like a
flying firebush, appealing to the merciful
and to the sons of the merciful.
In ashes of sepher-torahs sits Adonoi,
a black billet. Tongues of fire lick
a friendly wolf out of Isaiah’s dream,
as it carries to safety a baby lamb.

A brave calf consoles a frightened lion: “Brother, do not fear the angel of death.
We are all on our way to Paradise.” The little child leading us all since Adam
to the end of time, storms God off his throne:
Help O help, king of the universe,
but Io, God cries for help to the little child.

Jesus is a blazing church, horror-stricken,
seeking a savior through the savage heavens.
Itche, the convert, wearing one feminine
one masculine shoe, kicks the devil out
of the hallowed ashes of his fallen Lord:
No, not the Lord fell, it is the fall of man
he sees baptized through fire, blood, dust.
He orders Yoorke the godsmith to weld
a new Jesus. He sees the souls of
the village hover in wind, hiding
in the fissures of uprooted tombstones,
in fear of Eden for even the Lord is on fire.
He hears heaven and earth, God’s firstborn children
praying to Moloch for entrance to Gehenna.

Left of Pig Street is the wicked wonder
of flying roofs. The splintered houses form
ashen garlands, darken the light of
every prayer, remind there was once
a wistful alley there. The mudbank soiled
with bloodlust reminds there were once
people here. The shattered windows
saw thousands times thousands suns rise and fall here.

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Menke, a child of
fear, his bare feet bruised by weeds
which fight stones, cleave rocks
for their lives, his tatters smell
of the tallgrass of the swamps.

Neverlands in his
eyes, famine in his teeth, shouts
for bread with a mouth
soiled with the waste of bleak fields,
as if out of a dungbath.

He muses over
a riddle: where is the most
wondrous puddle on
earth if not in this pot of
lentil soup – enchanted mud

simmering over
a deft fire, a flame of gold.
He hears the lentils
bubble, calling him into
choice tastes, only kings may scent.

Gripped by a trance, he
suddenly leaps into the
seething pot and turns
into a moaning puppy
smeared with fire, juice, blood: horror.

The wounds embrace him,
as if hugged by scorpions.
The lentils gloat at
him like eyes of sea monsters,
threaten to chew him alive.

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General Horse


Some say,
his evil
eye maims little
birds on their first flight.
Saliva drips from the
mouths of terror struck children.
His touch turns dew into spittle.
Firebeetles swarming the summer nights
like meteoric showers quench their strange
splendor. Even the unknown soldiers have no
rest in their graves in fear of dying again. In
intrepid visions he swallows the spears thrown at him
by cossacks, nimble as wild steppe cats on Russian steppes.
His voice echoes battle cries, only death cheers General Horse.


A nude
icon of
virgin Mary
is among the dolls
of his saint harem, in
his private olympus with
orders to scour his soul until
it is spotless as his armored boots,
multicolored as his mustache cup. His
thoughts are brushed to match the forelock, mane,
tail of
his mare, the halo of teutonic chivalry,
(taught to neigh in old, high German) whom he married for
the lure of her buttocks, polished as a wizard’s mirrors,
a mare, jealous of his maiden goats, hogs and raped little girls.


Huzzah! General Horse (gammonfaced as if he grew on a
sausage tree) writes with his sword the farce of the century,
his muse is Shulamite, queen of the village, lovely
as the bride of the Song of Songs whom he ordered
to pick with her fingers as with dung-forks the
manure of his decorated mare as
he rides through the village crackling with
whip and spur; applauding himself
with his small, almighty hands,
as if a weird midget
condor fluttered in
delight over
phoo! Phew!


the fires of
the village lives
on the scorn of the
besieged Jews, in vanquished
axes, hoes, rocks; in pots, sticks
and pans. Their slapped faces hurt on
their trodden pictures which still smile, out
of their twisted frames, to the Messiah
of a future mankind, pray with ashed mouths: cry
God, at the work of your hands wherein you glory.
Is this man with the wondrous rib from which the mother
of life was born or a mare out of an incubus, a
thing worth a curse, a miscarriage out of the nit of a flea?

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Laughing Jackass

Lucky the one who never heard
Bufo Bear – the laughing jackass
laugh. It seems, a thousand insane
asylums jeer at the fate of
man, worm and beast; pig, bird and mouse,
at the remorseless will of God.

O when Bufo Bear, the heavy
footed clodhopper laughs, he is
a swordless assassin loaded
with the mightiest weapon – fear.
It is said, toads of the family
Bufo leap in and out of the
pupils of his watery blue eyes.

Cronies whine like windbags as they
twirl with their thumbs the gossip
of the village. Whipcrackers in
the horsemarket run amok, crack
their whips over themselves. Specters chime
the bells of the forsaken church.

Rivers raid rivers, streams swallow streams.
Even owls shriek, pluck their plumage
with their strong talons and hooked beaks,
raise a feather dance in the wind.
Starnosed moles burrow beneath
the earth in fear of light.

Feeble wits in prayershawls
and phylacteries bless their
lucky stars, his laughter is
heard only at sunrise and
at the wistful close of day.

At moondown he stands in the
back of beyond – the fright and the
miracle of the village,
daring the armies of evil
to the final trial of combat.

His only ammunition is
a secret oath which keeps him
immune to bullets and a white
donkey which he found limping
through the crossfires of doomed armies,
defeating each other where all
roads lead to hell. O he can stand
safely against gunfire, and his
donkey braying fire and brimstone,
can bray down the might of any foe.

Verily, stunned cavalries in
battle array, galloping in
their three beat gait, flee in sudden
terror, raked by their own fire;
their riderless horses hoof the
dust of their trampled horsemen
when Bufo Bear hurls his laughter
rolling out like a thunderhead
of the pit of an inferno, –
and his donkey (waiting to ride
Messiah) in unison
braying – a frightful duet
of two wondermongers,
splitting the ears, cleaving the skull
and crossbones of the village,
announcing through a ram’s horn
the arrival of Messiah;
the end of every hell on earth,
proclaiming the end of death,
the beginning of immortal life:

Rise O rise, dead of all centuries.
It is the end of graves, elegies,
coffins; death has been captured
or is in full flight. Death committed
suicide, drowned in the Viliya
river and turned into a live wave.
Our almshouse in heaven will be
a castle built of every star
of the milkway, every beggar –
a prince of paradise. Yea, death died.
Messiah is here! Me – ss! i – ah!

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Bread of Famine

(unrhymed, unrefrained, double chant royal)


The village is a bowl of droughts.
The creek is at rest in its grave.
Last drops of water still ooze like
tears from a weeping rock. The air
is crude with the odors of rich
weeds, of rough-hewn timber. Sterile
seedfalls breed a shriveled summer.
Horses, whipped beasts of burden, gaunt
as if skinned alive, neigh for their
burnt stalls, in mocked synagogues, leak
the oat-chaff out of their nose bags.

Mother Badonna listens to
one grained wheat, the laughing stock of
the wind, praying for abundance
to the devil of dust on the
poor earth of Lithuania.
The barred garden ails through her
with pore fungi, early and late
potato murrain, blistered leaf
stalks of bean and celery blight.
The earth is overscented with
black horehound and red bearberries.

The children nibble the bitter
bread of famine: blue and green gall
apples, corky scabs left of the
potato race, vining squashes
of crookneck, of the fool’s parsley,
tangled with bellyache, nausea;
they smell of crow and goosefoot, hedge
garlic, rose rust. The whiteblooded
mushrooms, hospitable witches
invite the parched village to drink
the pure venom from their death cups.

Sunset. Elchik sees a humane
spider, free of prey. He keeps watch
and ward as it weaves a net
of silk nerves on a gloaming pane,
entangling only the evening
star venus in its beautiful
cobweb. O a divine spider,
spinning each and every sign of
the Zohar, Messiah is on
the way to near the distances
of time, return to the first dawn.

This is why fowls flutter with drooped
wings and blue combs. Shorteared owls nest
in marshes. Strange birds with crimson
patches on their wings flap down on
the bombed almshouse. Menke listens
to the clock with its heavy weights,
counting moments as a miser
coins, dragging nights and days as on
crutches, O if he were a clock,
he would rush through all tomorrows,
in one minute reach Messiah.

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Children of Pig Street

Children with symptoms
of early blight, yearning to
break into bloom on
the tearful alleys of the
village of Michaleshik,

bear on their faces
the puddles of the village,
the swamps of the low
lands, troublesome as the fire
weeds which thrive on the grief of

blackened fields, scorched by
the fleeing foes before the
wheat is bearded, run
the stray dogs away from their
catchers, the mice – from their traps;

climb trees to learn from
the loud voices of tree-toads:
(the weather prophets)
to predict rain, shrill with the
piping call of spring peepers.

Children – fugitives
hide with deserters of maimed
armies, in murky
haymows, in the ruins of
Pig Street, in bush and jungle.

Children – haunted by
the sister goddesses of
song and art, science
and music, adorn even
the outhouse with their fretwork.

They learn design from
frostwork on windowpanes, carve
hyenas with smiles
of hangmen on every sash
of the whitehearted jailer.

Butte, roof and mesa
in their stage, hurrahed by birds,
goats, brooks. Boys are Lenins,
Trotskys, little girls are red maids,
rouged with the blood of cherries,

imitate ramble
roses, cling in large clusters
on cemetery
fences, use the headstones as
barricades, in mock battles;

serenade the dead,
on whistling jars, teach parrots
to mimic the cry
and the laughter of the mutes;
hear lovebirds answer thousand

and one riddles which
the winds ask the graves since the
coquetting Eve lured
the handsome serpent in the
shade of the first apple tree.

Children, aerial
acrobats, perform feats on
trapezes, dance on
ropes with leg flings in Sophic
rhythms, buck and wing over

roofs like tigermoths,
announce penny rides to the
moon, play the snake and
the snake doctor, eat fire, drink
venom and piss blood; wistful,

see dusk in, dusk out
the sun – a fire chariot,
awaits Elijah,
to fly him to the heaven
of Sabbath and wonderfoods.

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Elijah is here,
disguised as a wandering
beggar, dragging the
mud of Lithuania
on his tatters. He comes at

dusk to show children:
death is a honey cherry,
the dying sun – an
apple of Eden. He points
to shadows growing through the

mirrors of twilight
like chocolate trees. He sends
doves through the fires of
battles, with lilacs, peace and
confetti under their wings.

He comes in nights of
Tammuz to change the arid
village into a
moonmad river of milk where
only angels come to drink.

He comes with the bread
which a preacher cast upon
the waters, brings the
almonds and raisins from the
songs which lull children to sleep.

He comes when Kislev
is sated with darkness, to
turn clouds into boats,
sailing to the land of gay
tomorrows: America.

Children leap into
dreams, to frenzies of delight,
spring into the air,
to reach the clouds, land on the
straw roofs, cheer themselves hoarse as

ravens, shout across
the seas, to daddy and to
America: ho!
we are coming, Elijah
is our captain – re-ra-ra,

enge-benge, stoo
pe-chenge, arche-barche,
gole-shvatze, ei
mele-reimele, bei-ge
le feigele, hop, hop-hop!

Mother Badonna,
shushing the children mute, drives
them out of all their
deluded heavens: sh-sh!
Vei! good children learn from the

cobblestones to speak
the language of silence: sha!
The children, dumb with
grief, a handful of autumns,
little grandfolks, see the clouds:

Elijah’s ferry
boats, transformed into dragons,
hear the rain drowning
America, hear the winds
splash mudfrogs at each other.

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In Abandoned Barrack

Oi, Dveirinke!
loveliest of bare
foot girls bred on the poor
soil of einkorn wheat, flailed grain,
lilac blue, potato apples.
I write these lines yearning for you in
this abandoned barrack which is stained with
the death of German and red armies who bled
here white; mad with longing, high fever and hounding
whims, left alone to fight fancymongers, a sunset
or two before I die. The winds are here to curse my last
twilights. The late sun is a snowrose in the teeth of the frost.

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angels who
dared to touch the
earth are born anew
in the arms of snowflakes,
soar in search of God, somewhere
in this bereaved nowhere, until
they melt in their own light leaving here
immortal gloom. The fields are glories with
the lighthating stars of killed generals, preyed
by the silver eagles which nest in the graves of
colonels. Am I the only one left of old Adam
or did someone bury me long ago and I dream of
you in my grave? I outcry the crows to prove I am alive.

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The low
lands are thick
with peat, quagmire,
with the firestink of
decomposing iron
pyrites. Dry rot molds into
one union – friend and foe: rock and
flesh, spear and bone, marrow, pith, bloodroot.
Ghosts of soldiers still battle in the wind.

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Dream News

I saw my Dad in America through the seas of longing.

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I leave for
you all the gold
of my seventeen
autumns, in this year of
nineteen hundred seventeen.

Any living brook will tell you
of my love beyond dust. My witness
here is this tree riddled with bullets, hears
the evil and doom of man as an armless
giant, climbing over this barrack to frighten
the first migrant birds of Spring which swarm around the young
swamps to debate their return southward again. I die with
this prayer: God, dust is sin. O give me flesh – hate made of light.

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my love, I
see you with the
quaint medallions of
riverbeds, the kinship
of my forefathers, the proud
logmen who swim the beheaded
forests to a new life, resurrect
the little towns, the thatched roofs invite all
birds to build their nests. The hoary trees resurge
into young tables with the scent of old oak or
into barges on the Viliya river; reborn
into woodcraft: arks, fiddles, torchlights. Distances applaud
when we serenade each other on the flutes of hollow reeds.

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An air
plane cleaves the
steel nerves of the
skies. I see New York,
climbing against the wrath
of God: a falling Babel.
I see the Empire state Building,
lie at rest, like a giant relic
reminiscing of peoples, towers in
cloudlands. I see America move to Mars,
leaving you and me, at our table, our highest
planet, touring through the Mays and Septembers of far
away tomorrow, listening to poems which yet un
born poets will write of our bygone twentieth century.

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Prayer to a Self-Doomed Stranger

When I
reach the end,
on my way to
endlessness O give
me strength, self-doomed stranger,
to stray as a wandering
spider, in search of my only
prey – death, in the wonderworlds of my
city, away from the zealous care of
my loved ones, with the fear of my nearby end
in their eyes, tears dazzling like chips of smashed mirrors.
I am your cursed admirer, brothered stranger; like you
I shall defraud my fate, safe from the grief of a last kiss,
to meet death alone, in the private dusk of a lonely room,
in old New York, where I may hear a tree, tired of tireless howls,
wounded by stone snipers, crying havoc to the dull hordes;
or to welcome death in the solitude of our old
forest house as I listen to the streams rushing
to the truth of all truths: to nowhere, to hear
the Spring peepers eulogize my first and
last hour on earth, when wild buds change the
dimensions of their biased weed-
flowers: the condemned grace queens:
when sugar maples start
their run of sap to
sweeten the dust,
beyond the
last dawn.

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On History

What is history,
if not a sea maniac,
who counts each swept wave?

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The days tarry with the lazy chatter
of smart bumpkins, of cartoon characters,
echo with the gag of the dull, with the
silly laugh of giddy girls, like dwarf cherries.
Even the birds are bored in Ker-honk-son.
The spots of the woodthrush are like numb tears.
The minor poets of the birds end their song
in midsummer, poetasters sing in
season only. The robin sings best in June
when singing is at the height of fashion.
Only the wren, the true poet of birds,
declines to retire as nature’s pensioner.
The songsmith shapes a hymn out of every chore.
When the last fledglings fledge, he builds a nest for
the sake of building, loving, singing, even
in Ker-honk-son because build, love, sing he must.

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Eating an Apple on Orchard Street

Apple as I take you in my hand to eat,
yielding so kindly, as if you grew for me,
that I may grind you lusciously with my teeth, –
I am your longing to return to the tree.

You mellow as the immortal rose I promised
my love, in these plucked gardens of Orchard Street.
(I am, like Abraham, an innate bigamist.
Eternity dies, moments are infinite.)

You still blush as a ripe bride, stripped to the skin,
still remember the thriving ache of each floweret.
O nail me forever to guilt, not for the sin
of eating you. Shame-eaten, I bow in regret,

when I think, chosen fruit of Eden, what you
will turn into after I gnaw the last bite,
(You will be again with God – dawn, earth and dew.)
I fear, I may leave sin-black the stained daylight.

The air is furtive with apple-scented deceit.
Vendors smell with the stale grapes of pushcart vines.
Even the sun peddles its gold on Orchard Street.
Furrowed apples of love dream of blossomtime.

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The loveliest harlots are in New York,
nocturnal at midday, children of twilight,
paramours of the mist, menaced by light,
they sweet-scent the nights with every balm on earth.

Here comes Lilith – the first wife of Adam,
hellbred, out of a night-scene of Goethe’s Faust,
(Her room in the slums – a perfumed, stale mouth.)
a whore more naked in garb than all nude wives.

Her eyelids are like the green gates to Limbo,
her naval like the eye of a sky-gazer.
The streets are charmstruck by her generous arse,
her delicacy – a rockrose of old New York.

The stars in the gutters are free dimelands.
The wind – a daredevil rapes her in broad starlight,
plants stoneseeds in her womb and runs the gauntlet.
Her bride-bed, skyworn, is guarded by the cherubs.

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Dusk in Brooklyn Bay

Boats sail at twilight in Brooklyn bay where
the urban rivers meet with the might, grace
and valor of the Verrazano bridge.

Hudson is a tale which the narrows tell.
Elfmaids, archaic visitors are here,
to charm the panes of our metropolis.

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Lake Poets

Southey, Wordsworth, Coleridge, I also live
in the lake district, hence we are neighbors.
Only a poem between the idle,
dreamlit lakes of Westmorland, Lancashire
and the busy Hudson and East rivers.
Only a century, a step of time
from the many tribed roar of New York to
the cuckoos of Cumberland which cu-ckoo
in perfect trochee to the ghost of humdrum,
as they leave their eggs, motherless, in strange nests.
Only a horselaugh between the English
cavalry, in a race with subway trains:
the tunneled underworlds of Manhattan.

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Old Manhattan

Sundown. God, I am lonely, I will go
to the whorealleys of old Manhattan
and fetch me a jolly liberal bride.

The evening is drunk with its own wine on
our wedding bed, you will be my wife an hour,
I, your lover – a thousand and one nights.

I am all yours, my unmothered, unowned love:
I swear by the ecstasy of our trance,
by the hatched shadowbands of this twilight.

Night bears the commerce of licensed kisses,
the law ridden guardians of humdrum,
bereaved of you and me, of our soulquake.

You left, O firefooted elf of the streets.
The summer, greensick, cankers on cracked walls.
Flowers in a pot pine for home – the far fields.

My bride coquets through the blight of slummed streets:
wholesale dealers in smoke, iron, gold, death,
praying through the ages for their downfall.
Even time is tired here of night and day.

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Night over Wall Street

Night. Winds
on Wall Street
scatter the forged
dreams of gold-diggers
who shake the sun out of
their sleeves, leave the sold moon for
beggars – a god-awful dollar.

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My City

New York, city of refuge,
from listless calm, stoic ease,
welds its own skies, the fate of
live steel, drills its own lightning,
streets compete with galaxies.

Towers at dawn are rising
torchbearers, dust remembers
when alchemists built Babel
with the iron of alchemy,
when lovers lived forever.

New York, city laureate
of cities, vies with seven
wonders and always wins, sees
a Broadway on the moon, day
dreams the Genesis of man.

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Welcome June to the slums of my city.
Even condemned tenements celebrate
your arrival. Flowers tramp through bright slop,
dress like elves in all colors to greet you.

Skies, nearby, wreathe garlands out of soot on
crooked walls, pave with gems the bleak alleys.
God’s breeze spins a yarn, only wise babies,
dandelions and little birds understand.

A hermit dog – the homeless philosopher
of the slums meditates at midnight blue.
The moon dumps its silver in charmed sewers,
as if to get rid of its counterfeit.

Cats marry under starlit canopies,
mewing their love to all past and future Junes.

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Angels on Cherry Street

A full moon lures all angels out of Eden on Cherry Street,
down in the dungeons of old New York. Angels, love-peddlers,
pimps, birds, cats, the strays with nine lives, all miserables
share the goodies of generous garbage. Smoke-flies
cloud the moonlit street. Stone-faced lovers marry
in gutters dime-brides, whore-buds, minute-wives.
Angels crowd the slums, bathe in dung baths,
lick the piss of their ill-starred pals,
join the scum of God – the stone
cherries. Luck-tellers hand
out stars on silver
spoons, free for all:
riches of
tall tales.

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Poets on Cherry Street

are God-blessed paupers,
rich as dreams, coin dimes out of
the stars, roll silver
dollars of the moon, eat their
goldarn poems like manna.

Poets – drug addicts, smoke
opium in iambic
nightmares; children of
wonder seek the unreached dawn
beyond their last night on earth.

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Ali Baba and
the forty thieves join at mid
night, knife-chinned muggers.

Streetwalkers – joy girls,
the bruised cherries of Cherry
Street unfold for two

bits like rouged blossoms,
offer enchanting minute
rides to all heavens.

An unborn child in
a womb asks: mother, how far
am I from the world?

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Guests on Cherry Street

Robin Hood, tall Little John
and his jolly yeomen
are here to scatter sacks of
gold, robbed from the rich idlers.
The wind – a homeless fiddler
serenades the falling day.

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I was
a vagabond
roaming through the cities
of America. In homeless
nights on

of stones, I saw
ragged angels go up
and down the crumbling walls of slummed

Out of
a dream sneaked out
Solomon’s thousand nude
maidens, all vying to make love
with me.

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Twilight on Cherry Street

The tired day
falls from mirror
to mirror. I see
Ethel, my love, self-doomed,
in a garret, praying to
the kindest of angels – angel
of death. Death is always nearby at
the end of day. The sun sets in throes as
if struck by a hit-run driver, bleeding through
the gloom of Cherry Street like cherry wine. The sky
shares its splendor even with manure. A blind beggar
at twilight stands like darkness against a God-lit mirror.

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Mid Manhattan

Pray to loneliness,
at sundown on a roaring
street of New York when
even God, deserted, yearns
for eternal solitude.

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O if I could throw
myself on a street of New
York and let the crowds
pass over me, everyone
is welcome to kick me,
knock the evil out of me.

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Follow the Leaders
(on visiting the Gettysburg National Cemetery)

Follow the leaders:
archfiends blessed the swords of the
North as of the South.

Follow the leaders:
man and beast, skunk and angel,
dove and grave digger.

Skull and crossbones are
the pirate’s flag. All flags are
pirate flags. Let us

follow the leaders,
our lords and saviors beyond
God to the Eden

where all dead soldiers
are heroes where every home
is a medaled morgue.

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Hunter’s Moon

I see the hunter’s
moon over soldiers’ graves, time
to pray for the end

of hoorayed heroes,
war and drums, honored carrion
of unknown soldiers,

admired by naked
vultures, by sword and buckler
swallowers. Time to

pray for the end of
all flags – the many colored
deaths, hail the tomb bats!

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Hymn to Deafness and Blindness
(twin Menke-sonnet for lovely Devra)

Strike me God with deafness when I hear the laughter of a hick
which outgrieves the gloom of Ellenville, Hell-enville, Boreville.
Hail-Hail the hicks are here with mouths full of dull gags, with
highpitched voices over hicktown, with long tongues like
woodpeckers, brainpeckers, fit to be dolled with
dunce-caps, motleys, baubles – the fools’ scepters.
Hicks – laughing jackasses, hillbillies

of honky-tonk. Barhoppers soar
like bearbugs, beerbugs, swim, drown
in a beer paradise.
You may be at rest
among gossip
folks, honking
like geese.

me God
with blindness
when shy, shined bump
kins gawk, gape, yawn, gloat,
stare openmouthed, ready
to chew you alive like cud.
Tonguesters, bubblers babble in flocks
like crows. Their words have horns to stab, all
borehearted words have claws, scratch each other,
as if burrowed under itch mites. O brother,
if you do not know where is the most yokelish
solitude on earth, come to Ellenville, Hell-enville,
Boreville, Hick-Haven, and cheer: hula-hula, hoop-hoop-hoop.

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Beyond the Atomic War

At the end of all
life on earth, only hangmen
will go to heaven,

will build gallows in
the Garden of Eden –
the Garden of Evil.

A chain gang of nine
hosts of angels with maimed wings
will be chased out of

seven heavens, will
be hanged on the only tree
of life – the tree of doom.

Hangmen will rule all
heavens. God will stare at each
noose, will hide in the
dark dreams of the condemned, in
fear of light, in fear of life.

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Race of Ghouls

is not
a poem.
It is a curse,
no bomb can shatter,
no gas-chamber can choke,
against all the ghouls – the East
as the West, the same evil race
of ghouls, all true lovers of dead Jews.
No darkness frightens as the cruel daylight,
on the scorched alleys of my erased village:
Michaleshik – dreamland of Lithuania.

in, night
out, dream in,
dream out, I see
my aunt Beilke in
moonlit shrouds tell wondrous
tales. Beyond all beyonds, I
hear a voice calling: Rise deathless
Jews from Ponar, Auschwitz, Treblinka,
like David, father of Messiah, each
one with a stone in a sling, bring again and
again the head of a ghoul, in a shepherd’s bag.

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Troim, My Daughter

I left you like
a waif, a bereaved
child when I joined the hungry
chorus of America:
“Brother, can you spare a dime?"

Your new strange dad was
a red-browed dullard with a
head like the crown of
boreland: sparkproof, he taught your
sparkling mother the ever
ever virtues of a bore:

A bore is timeless,
a pendulum on a hand
less clock, swinging to
and fro, fro and to. He lives
on the rainless cloud: Yokel.

Was he an old storm
or a young creeping thing? Did
he die? All bores are
deathless since dustdevils howl
harrow, since the oldest bore
on earth Methuselah died.

Troim, my daughter, the
end is like a last kiss of
a life-long lover.
My days at sundown complain,
they are tired of light. Beyond
me who will hear the wind tell:

Once upon a time
there was a Menke. I will
be unborn again.
The unborn are infinite
as an unreached goal, as God.

See me chased out of
Eden among sin-eaters,
the fallen angels.
See me in your dreams as I
serenade you forever
and a day, in my poems.

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Cheers to the New Year’s Eve of Two Thousand

I see the cheering
crowds welcome home the year of
two thousand. Where O
otherwhere will I be? There
will be no danse macabre.

I will not return
to dust but to light, to you
my son. I will by
pass seven heavens to be
in your every turn and whim.

See me heavenless
as earth, deathless as our love.
Raise a cup of wine,
I will cheer world in, world out:
I’chaim, to life, my son.

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There is no Last Day, My Son

my last day
on earth is all
wonder, my son, still
one more sundown left for
me in the same dreamworld as
the first which Adam saw as if
it were Genesis again. A lone
butterfly, one of God’s poems, on my
window tells me how many ages in a
last hour. All last hours know how much light there is in
the darkness on the face of the deep. Dying is a
vision like the reflection of a bird over the dusk
lit stream, at our forest house. I see you, all Menke, in the
march of tomorrows. We shall meet undying, in our private sky.

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On the eve of Four Score

Come O come kind death.
At four score, it seems too late
to live, too late to
die though my grave is patient
under the smoke-chased stars in
the dismals of New Jersey.

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On Knowledge

Learn from
a doomed fly to
pray in a cobweb, learn
from a whipped dog to howl against
the moon.

Learn to
see all light like
the blind, learn from darkness
to create a never-dying

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Autumn Reveries

I see each falling
leaf rise again in the wind
to show you and me
and the dying moth, at dusk,
how endless the end may be.

I see God lonely
in naked autumn, without
the dove and the beast,
beyond the last life on earth,
yearning, in vain, for our sins.

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Two Lovers
(for Rivke)

Two lovers – mere souls,
escaped from Eden
on one figleaf like
an elf’s rowboat on
the river of Pishon.

Two souls – one prayer:
kind winds, rush us back
to the good old earth,
to tears, laughter, sin, love.

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Rivke, come to my
grave in your bride-dress
with a cup of wine.
O hear, beyond me,
the wind, the songsmith
sing to you my lost,
unwritten poems.

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God O Goodly Pal

Just a small step of
time to the next century,
God O goodly pal,
let me in to see a dawn
or two beyond my swansong.

O to be alive!
To be an outcast in the
dumps or all divine;
share the grief of a frightened
worm praying to dust for help.

To be a falling
star of the doomed. To be in
the cries of a nude
whore whipped in the market as
vile hordes roar hallelujah!

God, give
all the heavens
to the pious specters.
Curse me with the sins of the earth.

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