A Journal of Contemporary Arts 







I panic in the middle of the night.
Take CBD, shout God please help me.
I know intellectually
I’m suffering from PTSD.

Of course this doesn’t help when I’m not there.
We’re sitting on the deck above the beach
Where I’m half nowhere
Except with waves rolling in out of reach.

For days I was on life support, in pain.
My physical shape kept me alive.
I want to be here, myself again,
Cheerful, I want to thrive!

My wife who saves me from this
Also is exhausted from dread.
She saw me sedated, close to eternal bliss.
She heard the doctors say “He is almost dead.”

Now I close my eyes and listen to the sound
Of waves leaving the shore alone.
I remember coming slowly around.
I remember almost turning into stone.

Protect these boats, these masts,
Protect this deck where we sip rose
And stare at the bouquets
From last night’s wedding, which we know won’t last.

Protect yourself from this inner hell.
Be strong, wait this out, get well.



Blue is vivacious day.
Black is horrific night.
We never thought we would age.
If I hold you tight
Cannibal Death won’t bite.

Renaissance painters made still lives
Of ripe fruit and a skull.
Fleshy friends die monthly.
Once we were sensitive and tough.
Of Time we had less than enough.

In the public garden
I meditate on beach grass and lilies.
On the street an ambulance screams.
Although I’m wide awake
I’m caught in a mortal dream.

Blue is vivacious day.
Black is horrific night.
We never thought we would age.
If I hold you tight,
Cannibal Death won’t bite.



My friends are eighty or approaching it.
I try to remain intact.
But that is difficult with monthly news:
Small useless resumes – obits.

So every day I meditate
On a cut rose which soon will die.
Better on one of my grandson’s toys.
I was the epitome of joy.

I tell myself Time was once
Totally good to me. But now
In the costume of Fate it’s frivolous.
I try to strive for bliss but don’t know how.



Sitting in the diner with my pretty nurse,
Eating cinnamon French toast—low sugar –
And drinking decaf with skim milk
While Frank Sinatra sings September Song.
It goes off when my compromised lungs cough
And Don’t Fence Me In comes on,
Aunt Sylvia’s song before she left
For Dallas with her dumb G.I..
At my nurse’s command I put back on
The cannula to pump oxygen through my nose.
Then New York, New York comes on -- the town
I jogged in for miles at 31, my nurse’s age.
I’m overwhelmed by puzzlement and rage.





       (for David)

I look around your house with gratitude:
The five foot red and blue basketball hoop,
The closed cabinet of cars with chalkboard
Covers on the front,
The easel with magnitized butterflies,
The small garage with four levels
A small car slips down,
A plastic bumblebee
Which comes apart like a Russian doll,
A long wooden console for a TV
With two sliding doors -- spaces for hiding,
A green and white stove with plastic fruit,
Franks, corn on the cob,
Alexander in a red polo
With Beethoven's face in the front
And Ode To Joy on the back,
Luke in a gray polo
A rocket in the front,
NASA in the back.
For the first time since adolescence
I believe in God.




You never meant to lead the life you led.
You speak of your wife so disparagingly:
"I never meant to occupy her silly bed."
How eloquent you are, not with her, with me.

I never meant to lead the life I led,
Dealing with show business for fifty years
-- A way of not creating but of going dead.
Now my head is filled with anger and with fears.

So here we are at your coffee table
With little to say, with anguished looks.
"I tried to do what I was able
To do, and aren't you pleased you've written books?"




In Memory Of Ifeanyi Menkiti

I wrote romantic and dramatic poems,
Uncaring about ordinary life,
Feeling we were hiding in our homes.
Now I fear my death and the death of my wife.

How can we be both anxious and brave?
How can we feel it's safe to stay at home?
How can we store time, how can we save
Money like we save similes for a poem?

Summer blots the city from our windows.
Why does Spring quickly disappear?
Why are there so many widowers and widows?
Why am I writing to dissipate fear

Of death -- I was so close to it
I couldn't catch my breath, intubated in that room,
Trying to write, talk just a little bit
Trying to prevent my sliding to my doom.

Snow piled up on the ledge of my window.
Now I'm on oxygen for half a year.
This recovery is so damn slow.
But I thank God I'm still here.

Every few months another friend has died,
The latest ready to publish an anniversary edition
Of my best known work -- he raised the money, he tried
Fighting a stroke --- we were still full of ambition

But we both were approaching eighty,
Me and Ifeanyi -- impoverished now of years
Ahead, dead now, but not grieving me
Contented with my courage and my fears.

Bless you my readers -- three or four or five
Appreciating meter and alternate rhyme,
My drumming it is wondrous to be alive
Saving, spending parameters of Time.