A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






In Nature there has always been a balance
Between successful genes and those that fail,
But no insightful critic should bewail
The frequent exercise of native talents.

The best ideas seem to come at night
From empty space that frames the charted stars.
Between the chords from finely-tuned guitars
And crafted words, the differences are slight.

We sometimes see a tail that wags the dog;
The simplest course is hardest to maintain;
And often when the forecast calls for rain
The most we get are episodes of fog.

When friends turn into enemies it’s sad,
But more heart-wrenching are the many times
When normal moral deeds are seen as crimes
And all we thought was good is counted bad.


The reason people pray, one may suppose—
Conjectures being neither wrong nor right—
Is that the world is just a land of woes,

A field of flesh the dreadful Reaper mows
At will. Ingrained religion isn’t quite
The reason people pray; one may suppose,

Moreover, that such persons never chose
The onerous conditions of their plight
And view the world as just a land of woes

Where tragedies are staged till curtains close.
Because they dread the dark advancing night,
The reason people pray, one may suppose,

Involves the tale of how a Savior rose
From death, surrounded by unearthly light,
To show the world a land beyond all woes.

The final truth is something no one knows,
As hard to capture as a bird in flight.
The reason people pray, one may suppose,
Is that the world is just a land of woes.


The letter had been signed and sealed,
But neither posted nor delivered.
His roving thoughts ran far afield
Of where they once had played; he shivered,

And then he sniffed the envelope
To catch the scent of cheap cologne
He’d sprinkled with a last-ditch hope
He wouldn’t spend his life alone.

He met her at the home of friends
He’d known for thirty years or more;
They hit it off and, bucking trends,
They went to bed and learned to soar.

She wondered why he never called,
Despite the awkward morning-after,
For he was skinny, pale and bald,
But never victim of her laughter.

At last he mailed his steamy letter
Addressed to whom it may concern;
It made him feel a little better,
But there was much he’d never learn.


My lady friend has long been hooked on downers,
While I prefer the rush of stimulants,
And when we entertained some out-of-towners,
What most impressed them was our prurience.

Though I am fast and she is rather slow,
The difference in our pulse rates doesn’t matter.
The feelings in my ribcage overflow
When I approach en garde and stare straight at her.

She feels the same for me, and every day
She tells me that her heart begins to flutter
Whenever my sharp gaze is turned her way—
Her silky nether regions melt like butter.

With energy, I move around the house
Performing all the necessary chores,
While she, the model of a docile spouse,
Reclines upon the parlor couch and snores.

Although she always says she’s much too tired
Or costive to enjoy a hearty dinner
And I eat far too much when I am wired,
She puts on pounds, but I keep getting thinner.

It’s often said that opposites attract,
And I suppose that sometimes this is true:
Like stony ledges to the cataract
And blazing sunbeams to the morning dew.

      Yet here, Laertes!

“Because I can” is not a testament
To inner strength, but rather an affront
To anyone who ever paused and lent
Some thought to whether (if I may be blunt)

It’s better kicking ass than kissing it
In every instance, just because there’s risk
The latter act might lead to eating shit.
Diplomacy is not an odalisque

To use and then discard, or keep on hand
For salving thorny patches of a day
Which never comes. A gentle reprimand
Does not imply its author’s feet are clay,

But sets the tone at diplomatic functions
Where fates of men and nations are at stake.
It never hurts to tender barefaced unctions
Or offer honeyed words when colleagues slake

Their hunger at your table. Politics
Aside, you must be careful with the Sterno,
Lest chafing dishes raft you down the Styx
To moorings near the blistering Inferno.

Such heat is much preferred to wicked cold,
But shoes you wear to shield your eager feet,
My son, will grate and pinch when you’ve grown old.
Step cautiously. Invoke the Paraclete.




Her Mona Lisa smile and upright carriage
Belied the fact that she was victim of
A life gone wrong: a pickle-sour mismarriage
That bit the bitter dust. So much for love.

When starting fresh, she set her sights upon
The type whose values overrode his lust,
A person made of stuff a marathon
Is won with, someone who would earn her trust.

It's not a crime to wish, but for a fact,
A man is only what he is -- no more,
No less -- pursuing every carnal act
With all due haste, a sprinter to the core.

A round of sex ensures no lifelong bond,
And might not even make the heart grow fond.


The world dispenses sudden stillnesses
As cold as frost and dry as Melba toast,
But what this noise-arresting illness is
Has never been precisely diagnosed.

We're used to waves of feverish commotion
That tend to overload an open mind
And challenge any rational devotion
To silent nights drummed up for humankind.

The urban world we live in is a mire,
A labyrinth informed by fallen states
Of quasi-intellectual desire
That loves the endless processes, but hates

Itself. And that is where the battle ends:
Contested realms neck-deep in indecision,
With no one brave enough to buck the trends
Or to ameliorate the next collision

Between established norms and novel notions.
The quietude occurring now and then,
Supported by repose-inducing potions,
Enjoins us to refill our cup: Say when!


Just as the weatherman was blathering
About a hurricane off Yucatan,
The storm clouds here at home were gathering
Above our heads. We didn't have a plan

For flooding streams that likely would ensue,
Nor had we stocked our pantries with the food
That we would need to see us safely through
Calamitous events that might intrude

Upon our normative complacency.
In Mexico, all hatches had been battened
By heartless drug lords who, to some degree,
Were conscious of the folks on whom they fattened.

This story doesn't really have an ending,
Because it all depends on who will rush
The gates and who will staunchly be defending
The breach from which marauding legions gush.

Strong winds may augur either good or ill,
Depending on just where they're coming from,
But flaking paint upon a windowsill
Does not imply that households must succumb

To every burglar who would break and enter.
The world is full of fools who hem and haw
About what's right, reviling each dissenter
Who favors full enforcement of the Law.




The moving finger writes, but what it writes
Might be seditious or erroneous,
Enough to keep the lawyers up at nights
Deciding whether acts felonious

Occurred. "Most anything but shouting Fire!
Inside a crowded theater is legal,
And Darwin saw old paradigms expire
While traveling the world aboard the Beagle,

Then dared to publish: What a holocaust!
In just a few short years, established norms
Were overturned, the old religion tossed
By storms based on evolving living forms.

This knotty problem still has not been solved
Completely: Many weighty questions linger.
It's obvious that humans have evolved,
But has there never been a moving finger

That pushed the keys of mankind's destiny?
Perhaps it all comes down to what belief
Exerts its preternatural sovereignty
Within the context of a life too brief.


A disciple of Jesus may do as he pleases
Just so long as he honors the Lord,
And the valley of sin is no place to begin,
Unless hoping to meet His swift sword.

The example of Mary should make a girl wary
Of allowing the spirit inside,
For as soon as she did an improbable kid
Was conceived in a working man's bride.

The reaction of Joseph was far from explosive,
Though his helpmate had proven untrue.
With a semblance of joy he looked after the boy,
For what else was a cuckold to do?

Now, the turn of events, more than thirty years thence,
Put a host of misgivings to bed,
For the old rugged cross, the new emblem of loss,
Was established once Jesus was dead.

Whether true resurrection or gross vivisection
Is a question for scholars to ponder,
But as best we can tell, troubling visions of hell
Don't exist in that country up yonder.


I passed beside a meadow where the kine
Were grazing placidly -- as is their wont --
Lamenting that not one of them was mine
To milk or to make use of as a font

Of grass-fed yearling beef or precious veal.
The workings of a dairy must seem cruel
To vegans who disdain a hearty meal,
But it so happens that a single bull

Can service dozens of receptive cows.
I have no issue with organic farmers
That till the earth with oxen-powered plows,
But I'm averse to strident false-alarmers

Who dare to tell me how I ought to live.
Economy demands that excess males
Be used -- if only in a nutritive
Capacity, which naturally entails

The letting of great quantities of blood.
The lucky bull that grazes with his harem,
A docile herd content to chew their cud,
Stands like a spadix in a glade of arum.


The sooner we reject the gut and brain,
The sooner will the feeling heart's domain
Begin to dominate our labile souls,
Consigning will and thought to lesser roles.

No longer shall a rational approach
Inform the actions of a steady coach
Or help him make appropriate decisions
When mediating visceral collisions

Between an oversized offensive line
And monsters rising from the ocean's brine,
Which leads apace to mutual destruction,
Forestalling comity's reintroduction.

The constant practice of freewheeling feeling,
No matter how instinctive and appealing
To liberal souls, is rarely adequate
To calculate the long and short of it.

Unthinking action's vain fellatio,
Devoid of principle and ratio,
As far as anyone can see will tend
To render many an unraveled end.

This lame approach of going with the flow,
As most sure-footed pragmatists well know,
Results in shipwrecks on a swelling tide,
A course that's tantamount to suicide.





Not every territory has been mapped
With fixed political geography,
But where our penciled boundaries overlapped
We founded neutral zones of comity.

The fragrant bait with which we set our traps
Turned out to be less needful than we thought
Because no matter how at odds our maps,
We both were more than happy to be caught.

It's not our foremost aim to live in peace
Or hunker down in pleasant comfort zones;
In fact, should strife and conflict ever cease,
We'd miss the chance to gnaw each other's bones.

Our time together left no trace of doubt
That we were destined for a clash of arms,
For neither one of us can do without
The night raids or the sounding of alarms.

Vitality and beauty may not last,
And open doors may someday soon be closed,
But close encounters from the recent past
Have shown no signs of giving up the ghost.



What answers are expected from
A man encountered on the street
Whose daily games are zero-sum
And whose exalted gods have feet

Of clay? And who would want to question
A ne'er-do-well in need of food
Who suffers chronic indigestion
With such a fractious attitude?

"It takes all kinds," the adage goes,
But policies the likes of this,
Like voters forced to hold their nose,
Deserve acute analysis.

A more decisive course might be
To overcome our fathers' failures
And institute a legacy
Where sons and daughters cheat their jailers.

Our mothers, too, must share the blame
For crippling children whom they coddled
In Doctor Spock's infernal name,
A plan by which young souls were throttled.



A businessman deserves a glass of whiskey
At end of day to counteract the stress
Entailed by all the elements of risk he
Incurs pursuing large rewards. A less

Exacting schedule would be very foolish
For anyone anticipating gains,
Since only an incompetent with mulish
Predispositions tries to slip the reins.

An enterprising person has a purpose
That brooks no multilateral distraction
And bars participation in a circus
Where levity's the only satisfaction.

The old religion of the bottom line
Holds sway on profit's tilted playing field,
And lucrative transactions are the valentine
To which a merchant's troth is pledged and sealed.

Prayer Vigils

When prayers are offered, people tend to close
Their eyes, as though the darkness would enhance
The power of their ears. The Good Lord knows
That rituals are like a stately dance

Intended to establish formal bonds
Among communicants who seek an anchor
In cold uncharted seas or stagnant ponds,
Without ironic sneers or latent rancor.

I like to honor prayers with open eyes,
If only to be sure of where I'm going,
For seeing's most important, I surmise,
To separate what's been assumed from knowing.

The opening of all the human senses
To Heaven's multifaceted Creation
Is that from which the naked truth commences,
Engendering the spirit's satiation.




I hate it when I have to deal with fractions,
For I'm more comfortable with rounded numbers.
I loathe infinitesimal transactions
Where, unbeknownst to me, a giant slumbers

Within the labyrinth of shrinking fractals.
When I look down the corridors of time
And glimpse tyrannosaurs and pterodactyls
Disporting in a late Cretaceous clime,

I wonder what intelligent new creature
Will lump me with the monkeys and the apes
As he or she or it, a self-taught teacher,
Adapts to puzzlement by shifting shapes

Instead of formulating crystal-clear
Elucidations. Every twinkling star,
It's said, might be another sun held dear
By those within its glow; but from afar,

The math of astrophysics sets the tone.
It all comes down to who shall make the rules
And how they are applied. Good seeds are sown
Along with bad ones. Philosophic schools

Have glorified obscurity: In sum,
The categorical imperative
Is just some old curmudgeon's rule of thumb
That almost never hits us where we live,

Since there is no utility in dictums
Observed by martinets whose swollen heads
Are firmly lodged inside their costive rectums
And who, for all we know, are off their meds.

Although I can't imagine life without it,
Hard science does not have the final say.
It's evident, however much I doubt it,
That worlds arise de novo every day.





I merely want a place to lay my head
When sunset sheds its last entrancing glow,
That I might then have commerce with the dead
Who left this world behind so long ago.

The father of my father is a ghost,
My mother's mother is a fading shade
But those whom I will miss the most
Are phantom friends with whom I've never made

Acquaintance. Time, as always, turns the key
And locks us down inside a Turkish jail
Where bastinado is the destiny
Of Westerners accused of quaffing ale

Or tinctures of hashish, the crimes for which
No punishment is ever deemed too harsh,
Nor meek appeals a cause to stay the switch.
Just cast my body in the nearest marsh

To feed the hungry creatures there, and let
Ubiquitous bacteria enjoy
My final fall from grace, but not forget
The filth I lent them when I was a boy.