All That Was Needed

All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory.
~George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Keep telling yourself
it never happened
wage relentless
assault on all
evidence to
the contrary
vanquish doubt
as you double down
on the message
memorize
then swallow
fix it firmly
like a favorite song
in the jukebox memory
of your hippocampus
play it again and again
as you reimagine the past.

First published In Tipton Poetry Journal Summer 2017 (see page 54)

 

After Hearing the Young Black Poet

AFTER HEARING THE YOUNG BLACK POET

speak, my first reactions were
sadness, rage, then wonder
at our different worlds—
he writes of the bullet
he knows has his name on it
while I write—again—of my
imminent decrepitude,
he writes of all the times
he was stopped and frisked
while I write of indignities
suffered at airport security,
he writes of how his
great-great-great grandfather
was sold and branded like cattle
while I write of how my
Lithuanian grandfather’s name
got butchered at Ellis Island
he writes of how it felt
to watch the first Black president
compared to a monkey
while I write of how
my big ears always turned red
whenever kids laughed at them,
he writes of the pain
that won’t go away after
seeing his son killed because
a policeman felt threatened
while I write of the day
a policeman’s wife shot her husband
dead in the bedroom above us
and I felt sad for my poor dad
cleaning bits of brain off the walls,
he writes knowing that for some
he will always be less of a man
while I write whole and secure.
We explore the separate
flows of our lives, holding
them back against time,
diving for words
in quiet pools of reflection,
but it’s a wonder
his dam doesn’t burst.

First published in Ginosko Literary Journal Issue #19 (see page 331). Read this and four other poems here Ginosko Literary Journal Issue 19

An Endless Afternoon of Now

My poem “An Endless Afternoon of Now” was just published in the latest issue of Tipton Poetry Journal. For much of the past year, I have been reading all the novels of John Steinbeck and came across a remarkable line from his last novel The Winter of Our Discontent that seemed to cry out for a poetic response. So here’s my poem.

AN ENDLESS AFTERNOON OF NOW

It wouldn’t be bad to be that way, suspended in time—not bad at all, an endless afternoon of now.
 ~John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

To enter you must first
choose a now—sitting
on a bench with your
first love and the touch
of her knee against yours
or the way you watched
him through the window
as the train pulled slowly
away from the station—
think of Hopper’s
Josephine standing
naked to the dunes,
a cigarette dangling
from her fingers,
and you get the idea.
Make it something for
the ages, something
that looks good on the wall.

First published in Tipton Poetry Journal Issue #33 (see page 30)