Thursday, July 31, 2014

For these difficult days

Here's a poem from my chapbook- "Dance the Truth" which seems appropriate for these days. 



Buy gold.

Buy it now.

When you flee

the home exploding,

the burnt landscape,

trade it for a loaf of bread.


Remember the rhymes

of so many poems

to fill the confined

calendar days

of prison life.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Violence is even hitting close to home

Violence is even hitting close to home


With the daily reports of the horrors inflicted on Gaza and airplanes falling out of the sky, there is the question of what can one do?  Social media has been a godsend.  Although Russia still dupes its citizens, we learned almost immediately that the Ukrainian separatists armed by Russia shot down Malaysian flight MH 17. At least we did in the international media; the US media took much longer.  If you stick to reporting that isn’t the standard US newscasts, you can find out what is happening in Gaza and let others know.  That might help change the impressions of a public that has always been fed one point of view.  Here’s a moving article by a Jewish writer living in Canada:


The next question is what to do about our local neighborhoods.  Lately, Buffalo (where I’m living) has undergone what the media calls a renaissance. 


At the same time there were a series of rapes in what are among the most gentrified neighborhoods in the city.  I’ve heard nothing more except for the arrest of one of the perpetrators.   The website, which tracks crime statistics, lists even more sexual assaults in the City since late last month:

•07/07/2014 | 300 Block FOX ST

•07/07/2014 | 1100 Block MAIN

•07/06/2014 | 1 Block KINGSLEY ST

•07/05/2014 | 300 Block BRECKENRIDGE ST...

•07/05/2014 | ELMWOOD AV & ALLEN ST

•07/02/2014 | 400 Block DELAWARE AV

•06/29/2014 | 200 Block ALLEN ST

•06/29/2014 | 1 Block FAY ST

•06/29/2014 | UNKNOWN & NIAGARA

•06/29/2014 | 300 Block W FERRY ST

•06/28/2014 | 100 Block HIGH ST

And unfortunately more.

Yesterday I found out about 3 violent assaults in the same neighborhood as the one where some of the rapes took place.  Thanks to the neighborhood association which has put out this information.  Otherwise, I don’t think many of us would even know what is going on at night. Has it always been this way?  Or is social media making us more aware and able to take more precautions?  Is the violence a backlash in the 4th poorest city in the US?  Is it some sort of gang initiation?  The property crimes can be connected to poverty but the rapes?  There are more questions than answers here.  Fortunately, there are women who organize free self-defense classes and marches at night but how many women are afraid now and how is that limiting our lives?

Here's a poem that I usually open my poetry readings with and will probably continue to do so:


Past knots and tendons,


I look


to bone


and see,


 centuries past.


my face shrivels


as flames rise higher.


The point of a sword


slashes my belly.


Today, head to toe in black,


I barely breathe,


walk the requisite


steps behind.


The open hand


of my husband


reddens my cheek.


In  India and China


girls form


the Greek chorus,


and chant,


Never born,


Never born.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moving again!

2 years later and I'm moving again.  Here's a repost from then-not much has changed.


I  am sitting in a room that’s in the process of being dismantled, bit by bit, box by box.  Where does moving fit on the scale of life’s most stressful events?  Somewhere up there, after death and divorce.  My many moves are bookended by long periods spent in the same place.  17 years in the farmhouse in Varysburg, the small town where I grew up, and then 15 years in the atico flat in Barcelona with its terraces and views of the sea as a distant blue line and Montjuic, the city’s hill off the port. 
Since my American adventure, I’ve lived in three places- my sister’s home in Atlanta, a sublet in Buffalo, and my present apartment where I’ve been for, hard to believe but four years now.  Four years of living alone.  Surprisingly except for one brief stint here when I was in college, I have never lived alone.  Now that I’ve done it, it seems easy.  Solitude doesn’t weigh but there is that occasional need to find a witness for the daily details of life. 
So now, encumbered by a lot more stuff, I’m preparing for move 4.  I left Barcelona after twenty years with three suitcases and a few boxes of my papers which I sent.  How is it possible that I have amassed more stuff in four years here than in all that time abroad? 
My first trip away from home to Paris for my junior year abroad only required one suitcase and a small carry on.  With every subsequent voyage I’ve been weighted down with more stuff.  I have my books (heavy, aren’t they?), DVD’s, papers (way too many), CD’s, and more clothes than I could ever wear.  What do I really need?  Comfort is a way of life in America and every object is designed for that finality.  How much can I shed?  As I look around the chaos that is now my pre-move life, I’m going to find that out.

                                                                        “You can’t go home again.”  Thomas Wolfe   

Cross the yard
to open the gate,
my mother stands
at the door.
Inside, the grey carpet
with faded roses,
consumes my breath.
The mismatched couches
 are covered over again,
a paint by numbers seascape
hangs on the wall.

I reclaim these rooms,
the medicine stained floor,
my father metes out drops
so he can breathe.
His voice, the backdrop
to my dreams,
as he reads aloud to my mother,
their secret night life.

Stripped naked
I try again to enter,
13 steps to my bedroom,
Petal pink, a girl long buried,
still wants the Barbie dress up world.

My mother’s closet holds two suits
from her past life,
strappy heels, red leather,
thick ankle straps,
I touch and identify,

She never wanted to be here,
in this farmhouse in America.

Yet she greets me,
we share for a moment
this white house,
this undersurface dream space.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's July and time for the Tour

When I lived in Spain, I loved watching the Tour in July- a hot, lazy month and the stages of the Tour were perfect for relaxing on the sofa.  Here's a short piece I wrote for a bicycle magazine.



July- it’s the middle of summer in Barcelona and it couldn’t be hotter.  July means my teaching schedule is split in the middle and I get home at the hottest time of the day.  That also means that I am stuck in my sweltering top floor atico apartment.  During the rest of the year, the terrace is a delightful luxury but in the dead of summer even with the awning stretching out over the top, it’s too hot to venture out in midday. 

No air conditioning, no escape.  Even my gym has an air conditioning system that barely generates a light chill.  I get home after teaching two English classes at a multinational insurance company.  The students are what you could picture in such a class.  There are four of them who study risk or numbers or god knows what.  But it is easy enough and it pays the rent.

I stop on my way home trudging up the hill to my flat, stopping to pick up lettuce and prepared gazpacho which I drink by the liters, providing liquid and salt in equal measure.  After I eat, I lie down on the sofa, remote in hand.  News comes on and then, the Tour de France.  Nothing could be more suitable for the summer than the peloton making its way through the pretty green French countryside.  The droning voices of the two announcers, one a former cyclist himself, never fail to put me under. 

At some point during the broadcast, my two kids get home from their colonias, which is a kind of school camp.  Mostly it serves to let the adults keep working and give the kids who don’t have doting grandparents a place to be.  My wife, Lina herds them away.  “Daddy’s watching the Tour.”

“Daddy’s sleeping.”  Paul the older child announces.  Undeterred, Lina says “ssssh” and takes them into the kitchen to feed them the kind of snack I was never allowed, a piece of baguette with nutella.  It seems to do them no harm.  They have boundless energy and no cavities.    The voices have penetrated my consciousness and I shift away from the TV screen, having given up all pretense of watching. 

Big days are mountain stages and time trials but those are interspersed with these slow days where the overall standings never change and I can fall into that delicious drowsiness without worrying anything can happen.  I usually wake just in time to see the stage winner kissed by young women dressed in the color of the winning jersey.   The yellow jersey and the small stuffed animal are handed out to the leader of the tour at the end of the broadcast.


“And there’s been a fall!  A rider is down!”  the announcer’s voice reaches a high pitch.  Immediately I turn back to the screen and I watch the replay of the unlucky rider get his wheel caught in the rider in front of him.  That one miscalculation and Joseba Beloki, a rider I’d been following attentively like the rest of Spain, is on the ground.  Minutes later he’s taken away in an ambulance. 
“Damn.”  Beloki had been the Spanish heir to Indurain.  Having been in Spain long enough to watch Indurain ride to five victories, I’d pinned my hopes on Beloki.  I rubbed the sleepiness from my eyes.

I get up, stretch, and head into the kitchen to join the boys for a bit of that bread.