Saturday, January 18, 2020

Bearing Witness

voices cracking
broken hearts choking
throats with tears caught
in rivers flowing to a cold ocean
of grief and incidental healing

for exterminated babies
mothers, elders...

distant family, curious strangers
grandchildren of Nazis
all visit Auschwitz
to consume their own sorrow
to greet their own humanity
calling out the names
of those murdered

pledges of peace
summoning tikkun olam
a Zen priest, rabbis
Christians, an imam

the grey light falls
like wretched snow
on this gathering

the ember of essential flame
original nature, emergent Love
carries joy even here
to nourish spirits trapped in ashes
clamoring for release

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

writing anything

writing anything
anything but the honest thing
songs of you and me

Monday, January 6, 2020

Homing Signal, the Birth

When 22 years old, I returned to the agency that had handled my adoption.
At the Jewish Children’s Bureau, I was given a page and a half of “non-identifying” information about my birth parents, and the circumstance around my birth. I was eligible for this information in Ohio because I was over 21. It had taken a year for me to get to it, due to poor health.
My father had been a college student in New York. He traveled to Cleveland in 1965 with a friend from Cleveland on their holiday vacation. Clevelanders reading this might puzzle at the juxtaposition of their hometown with the word “vacation”. Nevertheless, this is where he met my mother, a high school girl.
They dated for a short while, but they did not remain together. When I was conceived, the decision was made for my mother to carry me to term, and then put me up for adoption. She stayed in an unwed mother’s home until my birth, on September 9th, 1966. I imagine her experience must have been awful, having to go through the pain of child-carrying and childbirth, and then, having no means to support her baby, relinquishing him. I also imagine I was awash in the chemicals and the energy of depression and anxiety during my entire gestation.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Homing Signal, the Conversation

“I have two thoughts about this,” Tom said, “It’s fascinating, an incredible story. And the second is – that’s life.”
My best friend from high school and I met for breakfast on Christmas Eve day. I told him about the circumstances surrounding my birth, my being given up for adoption, and finding my birth parents at age 22.
He asked what had prompted me to seek them out.
“Nothing outside of me. It came from inside, like a homing signal. I had to find them.”
And yet it hadn’t been an obsession. More of an adventure.
I asked him if he’d seen the movie, “A.I”, a Steven Spielberg film, directed by Stanley Kubrick.
“Is this the one? There’s a scene at the end, a boy android has been frozen for centuries. When he is brought out of stasis, he encounters a future race of androids. Humanity has long since been extinct. And then he is granted a wish, anything he can think of. He says, ‘I want a day with my mother.’”
It was an earlier scene I was thinking of, I tell my friend. The boy-android finds his creator, the human engineer who designed him.
Long story short, at 22, I was looking for my creator.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Turned Around to See Itself

Professor Kotack paces the narrow auditorium stage. I am amazed he has managed not to fall off the whole semester. On this final day of fall term, the anthropologist is telling us a story from his time with an African village family in the early 80’s.
“My last night on this excursion, we sit at the dinner table. There is much laughter, but also tears and heartfelt tributes. I will not see them again for two more years.”
The mother serves him some rice with chicken. And then, on top of the steaming mound of rice, she places a boiled chicken penis.
The class takes that in. There are a few guffaws, but we quiet ourselves.
“You see,” says the professor, “when you have the opportunity to really connect with people whose lives, on the surface, are much different than yours…you come to appreciate that differences mean little in the face of what is common. This family had the utmost gratitude and love for me. Their honoring me with the rooster’s dong”, more laughter, “was the highest compliment they could give – from the standpoint of their own culture.”
Something in my head twists around to see itself. I think I have finally understood what he has been trying to show us in the past three months.
Sure, every culture has vast differences in belief and custom. But, truly, there are no differences that matter. We are all bound by the same code of honor – a friend is someone you esteem as much as, if not more than, yourself. I think of the “headman” (in a sense, the “mayor”) that did not honor this code. He tried to keep his wealth to himself. He was shunned and mocked by the entire village.
Professor Kotack has left us enough to think about, for the rest of our lives, perhaps. At least he has left his gift with me.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019


comfort is not
what it appears
a murderer
dressed as a teddy bear
a mother
who eats her young
the placard that hangs
on this moment
does not point
to this moment
but to the next
or the preceding one
a fantasy reality
where confidence men
are trusted
for their warm hands
with their sure grip
that pull you back
from the precipice
without letting on
who led you there

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

not Al Pacino

not Al Pacino

I was sitting in the coffee shop
when he walked in, I swear he did
Al Pacino, in Cleveland for a film shoot
or maybe it was the Christ
holy light of each of our hearts
or my father, departed and all, as he is
returning to tell me
to complain to the Honda dealership
for the extravagant amount they charged
for an inspection that brought up nothing
nothing but my own lack of guile
the trusting naivete
Dad had a hard time
in me

assuredly, it was not Al Pacino
it was the handsome, scruffy Balkan guy
who comes here for espresso
but in him, perhaps
a latent everyday savior
or a doting father
the kind of man you might find at Starbucks
playing dominoes with his friends
proudly showing off his little boy
the kid, a tad shy and a bit soft-headed
with a grand, budding heart
that not Al Pacino
will not appreciate
for years to come