Every time I start to believe

That there is meaning to life

Above and beyond what you can touch

That karma exists

Maybe even god or spirit

Every time I think I see a pattern

Or destiny

Something besides the luck of the draw or

Roll of the dice

I remember

I remember all the children who have died in war

Died of neglect or disease or abuse or starvation

Died in the gas chambers, got shot, froze begging on a street corner

I remember all the children who have suffered

Who have not been permitted to live out their days

Since the world began.

No karma explains a child’s suffering

And a child’s death carries nothing but grief

Any philosophy otherwise

Is the self-indulgent musing of the privileged

Who are just lucky to be alive.

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I was born to be a minimalist

Because I edit every line

Until there is nothing left but the letter “I”

And an exclamation point.

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My Mother’s Adventure in Psychotherapy

When my mother got depressed

She could not get out of bed

She just laid there like a lox

Refused to eat

She thought she had cancer

She knew she was dying, that’s how bad she felt

Even came to terms with imminent death

When the doctor told her she was fine

She snarled at him


He showed her the tests, the x-rays, the labs

Oh she said reluctantly

The doctor suggested a psychiatrist who in turn

Suggested a chemical imbalance in my mother’s brain

Caused her lack of vigor

He recommended a pill to take

Together with a course of psychotherapy.

So she got out of bed

And resumed eating

After a few months of weekly visits to the psychiatrist

In which she made up stories and never revealed a truth

(I lie to him, she told me)

She declared herself cured.

But for the next thirty years she took the pill

Just to make sure her brain stayed okay.

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Me as a solitary child

Who reads alone at the dinner table

And in bed, draws in notebooks

Wears funny glasses.

Picture me when I go to camp

At eleven

I trot into the unknown

Sit in the train car going to the country

Along with scores of shouting laughing children

When we get to camp I

Get the last bed in the bunkhouse

The one nobody wants next to the counselor.

I look at the other campers

All strong athletic loud

I share a bathroom with twenty girls

Nobody has time to brush my hair

Sometimes I hide in a cabin

Painting and

I make an ashtray for my mother

To give her when I get home.


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Very Well

It’s all very well

To call yourself a writer

But are you a writer if nobody reads your stories?

Or just a tree falling in the forest.

Are you a hero if there’s no applause?

Are you a victim if you shrug it off?

Are you beautiful if nobody loves you?

Or are you just a fucking log.

It’s all very well

To speak in an empty theater and call yourself an orator

To sing Madame Butterfly to the stars

To argue with yourself and win every time.

If you don’t mind the silence

You can call yourself anything.

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Walking Arm in Arm

When my mother was alive

We used to walk arm in arm

My hand tucked into the crook of her elbow

We never kissed

Never hugged

But we took long walks

Arm in arm

We walked around the lake in Florida

Walked up Broadway and bought bagels and lox

Walked along the Grand Concourse to Lohmann’s

Walked down subway steps to the D train

Our footsteps matched

We walked down Vermont cowpaths

Walked out onto the pier to watch my father fish

Walked arm and arm in the nursing home

When she could hardly put one foot in front of the other

When my mother was alive.

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Body Work


My car has a scrape along one side

And is scheduled for repair at the body shop

So I spent the last hour trying

To talk to car rental and

Insurance people

On hold with bad music

You must think I have nothing better to do

Than listen to your voice recording

And prepare to leave a message

Only to be advised that your mailbox is full.

I can live with the scrape I suppose

It’s an old car

Still drives fine, just

Send me a postcard when you are free

vintage car wrecked grayscale photo


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