Petite madeleines

The sound of sneakers

scraping against a sidewalk.

Basketball courts in the park,

handball games lasting until dark,

youth whirling in an energetic swirl,

running to catch the light,

running the bases in a game of

curbball, the northern summer light fading

slowly, until darkness called us home.

 

Or: the taste of Skittles,

fed to you by slim brown fingers,

perfume intoxicating, her presence

near you addling your mind,

as you walked in a neighborhood

not your own, away from school,

from parents, from all cares,

just the taste of the candy,

and soon the taste of her lips,

her tongue, first love,

unforgettable. An entire world

recreated, with the unhappy ending,

but happy all these years later.

 

Or: the smell of urine

as I descend into the A train station,

whisking myself away to the Village,

or Soho, or Washington Square,

away from what I knew

to places where I could see

my future; to bookstores,

the Main Branch, the original

Macy’s, a trip from home and hearth

to where I was my own master,

scouring the city, at one with it.

 

The triggers of memory which

when we are unaware carry us

to places we’d forgotten,

to times eaten up by the sands.

I remember that? That happened?

Is that how I felt?

Yes, yes, again yes to all those questions.

You may be more knowing,

but you know little more than you

knew then, when every day

taught you something, opening the world

to you, and life, terrible life,

struck you with God’s awe.

 

Every memory an inward yelp

of joy that time is not past,

but ever present, the foundation

of anything worthy.

Nobody knows my troubles with God

Or at least that’s how I always heard it,
listening in the car, head nodding
shocked that it would be declared
so openly, so wretchedly, so strongly.

But we hear what we want to hear;
what I heard as a shaken fist
was a plaintive consolation,
a declaration that only God knows.

Only God knows ones troubles,
the humiliations, the calumnies,
the myriad fardels one bears,
until at long last life lifts away.

But I had my thoughts, and God
knew none of them, cared for
none of them, as he was a
myth, a fairy story told to children,

like Santa and the Easter bunny; great
for Hollywood epics, but mute before
the horrors great and small which
never seemed to be diminished by Him.

My troubles are with an Emptiness, a Void,
a God-shaped hole as big
as the universe, swallowing it in
its event horizon. God the ultimate cipher.

The easy sureties of childhood will
never return; history has worked me
like rough leather. Age hardens
one under the incessant, beating sun.

But why struggle with what you don’t believe?
My struggles are with the real,
and my loves are with the real.
That’s all for which anyone can ask.

Still life

In the end it is an ordinary life;

I’ll leave the heroics to others.

 

The simple pleasure of a coffee

on the porch, to wash down a roll.

 

Coming home after work, entering

the house, fixing a cocktail,

 

greeting my wife after her day

at work, the pets greeting us

 

in their fashion. These form

the prelude to any decent life.

 

The sheer bravery to arise

every day and greet it with

 

something other than dread,

to face it with hope and glee.

 

Most are not made for the terror,

the thrill of the extreme;

 

a sick child, a dying parent,

the stack of bills frighten enough.

 

There’s no shame in that;

every life is a cry against the darkness.

 

Every day passed in peace

is a shaken fist against death.

 

Savor those moments of joy;

they will stand you when grief comes.

 

It will be the moment in the dark

where you hang on to that light,

 

reminding you that things pass

all in their time, all over again.

 

Seek danger if you wish; you’ll see

it will come, willed or not.