1st grade assignment

grace.

a word.

full of meaning.

coopted by religion,

as if the free-lance faithful

had to pay royalties merely

to reference it in short stories.

spoken into a person’s life as blessing,

but heard as curse, if not used in a sentence,

that includes: table, wine, bread, togetherness,

and the words All Shall Be Well & come back soon.

 

at the breaking of secrets,

and our buried joys, sprouting in spite

of the shadows on our long way home.

 

one man whispers it into the wind,

another, not caught dead thinking it,

finds himself helping his 1st grade

daughter find ten words that rhyme

with face.

 

trace,

case,

race,

place,

lace,

pace,

base,

ace,

chase,

grace.

the gentlemen caller

tonight i witnessed great theatre.

four actors, listened, and spoke

with compassion and courage.

 

a director planted moments of

humanity and longing in a time

signature previously unknown.

i don't stand often when the

curtains fall, in these our

broadway halls of fame, but

tonight my heart was full with

stories shared amongst us all.

 

the chatter resumed soon after

the lights buzzed bright and loud,

but eyes and souls were not as dry

as when we first entered the door,

nor did the stage ever go fully

dark, but three remaining candles

burning there now still, still burning,

keeping wake at the edge of water.

brook-home-lyn

The air today is full of ease and light,

a homecoming sweet and mellow,

my wife's love for watermelon

and travel, and my longing for

seeing more clearly that which is.

here. growing. now. and steady.

how a heart's angst will dissipate

in lieu of a Brooklyn dusk and the

faces of neighbors welcoming us

back home again. gloria in excelsis.

and a time to speak

speak into the world,

the story you woke up with.

after reading the paper,

the decisions of Yes You May

and No You Wont, from on high.

after sifting through your need

to be heard and seen,

and debating whether

it wouldn't be better to

up and leave and serve

the hungry and the dying,

after sitting still for an hour,

(or thirty seconds),

remembering the future,

and groping the past--

that story no one asked for,

that story that may never

walk & talk beyond the walls

of your kitchen,

or the throbbing of your temple.

tell that story nonetheless,

because it has no other advocate,

but you, and though it is

rife with indecencies

and petty motives

there is yet darkness

that will cool the summer heat

and the occasional

holy flash that

might help us all

to listen and be still

and see each other

between the lines.

jet leg of the heart

new york city makes me anxious.

tranquility found in other places,

is lost between LaGuardia and our

front door. homelessness is part

of what it means to return. 

Unheimlich, diese Sehnsucht.

 

time runs faster here just to keep

up with its residents. in other parts

of the world it is only mid march,

here we are crashing into August.

 

Sind wir Zuhause?

 

the grass is greener, (no doubt)

the sky bluer, the heart fonder

of that which one has only tasted

but not feasted on. one or two

hairs can be found in every crème brûlée.

 

and yet

'there is a world elsewhere'

perhaps we have returned again

a broken coriolanus, the mother

of all cities calling us back.

 

Die Freundschaft unserer Freunde,

and the only currency that will last,

finds us out each time and hands

us our boarding passes, NYC bound.

 

We arrive expectantly, a piece

of Christmas-in-July in our carry on.

There is a kind of holy gossip in the air

that can almost be bottled for safe keep:

the humidity and sweat of Brooklyn,

and a promise that all shall be well.

death next to my coffee shop

she stood smoking and crying,

this Monday morn (every mother)

next to the coffee shop I entered.

Hundred tall Target candles, most lit,

spell D A N N Y.  1 9 8 5 -- 2 0 1 3

"why did you have to leave me?"

she whimpers, and limps

up and down the sidewalk.

Alone now, pepsi in one hand, smoke

in the other, her hands are tied.

(her knee must have given up,

given out years ago)

 

Then they came, in casual wear,

in ordinary time, and plain sight:

her kin, smoking and crying too,

gathering around scotch-taped

cardboards taped to the crumbling

brick of this old Brooklyn brownstone.

(notes of farewell scribbled with black

permanent marker. permanent)

 

Friends and family (more kin than kind),

invited to write, bless and punch the wall:

"Look over us, Danny!" Rest in Paradise!"

1985-2013. (Attention must be paid)

 

Grief not tucked away, not now,

but shaken out in the open here,

on this sidewalk, this family block,

under this spring tree, on this sunny day

in this part of Brooklyn, (while some of us,

reading our day's fortune in the NYTimes,

sipping Cappuccinos, are barely aware

that a hooded stranger has stepped into

this our coffee house (his pit bull sitting

still, hungry and unafraid meeting my gaze)

may or may not be the bringer of bad news

to any of us. (We who are unaffected,

untouched, invincible, as of date) 1985-2013

 

The 9yr old girl has lost her the dad,

(spelled the same way back to front)

and knowing Loss by his first name,

(she has come of age far too soon)

her awkward pre-pubescent frame,

stands trembling between passerby

and candle-wax. Still too young to smoke

(but if she asked now, who would deny her)

 

Christ only knows what will happen now.

Christ. 1985-2013. The Pit Bull stares.

 

'Someone is grabbing McDonalds for breakfast'

I hear, for those here keeping wake.

 

'A freak accident' the aunt whispers.

(all death is freakish. all death is a freak)

 

The 2yr old boy (every father's son)

with braided hair, looking sharp,

stands and mirrors the photos of a man,

photos stapled and hung from stone,

(he may not remember this man years from now

but today he does. Today he knows and points).

'Can you say "Good morning Daddy"?'

his aunt asks him. Without pain, pause

or fear, (for God makes the very young resilient

to the chase of the utter-worst)

the son resembling the father well, stands tall,

(and far too young to smoke) says:

"Good morning daddy. Good morning."

(does he know something we don't?)

 

The Pit Bull turns and whimpers,

lies close to the ground,

still hungry, but less confident than before.

alpine baptism

It is a tricky thing to speak truth,

about how things are around here,

and how we wish they could be.

 

The truth about ourselves, of course,

this need, this want, give me Please:

this insatiable appetite that grows

upon which it feeds: Look at me.

 

If we don’t matter on a cosmic level,

perhaps we matter to our neighbor,

perhaps they see us, and applaud while

we sleep and dream of bigger projects.

 

Not to matter, or to create it ex nihilo,

is a daunting indeed for a day’s work,

if all has been said, nothing new found,

and we recycle the master’s quotes,

and attach our life to theirs in hope...

 

‘be grateful for what you have’ they say,

‘don’t let em get you down’, they sing.

 

Beauty everywhere, Grace always on the bound,

the hound of heaven, may have had his fill

some time ago, but mistaking our paws for his,

we scramble on, each of us through the trees.

 

‘there must be spring water somewhere close,

amidst the dead leaves and burned stumps.

My meni in the Alps baptized me last minute,

an emergency procedure only allowed if the

soul of the child is in danger. He must have known,

that thirst would set in and drive me here one day,

would drive me here. Death loves the wind,

when the sky can’t distinguish between dusk and dawn.

And coma and period look more and more alike,

commute

perhaps you and I are

not so different after all.

waking up, washing up

and walking to the train,

thinking about who is

ahead and who behind.

the express 4,5 eases

some fear of being left

waiting for the local 2,3.

‘the lines have fallen for

me in pleasant places”,

someone wrote some

time ago.

advent approaching fast

we can barely stop,

the market reaching

higher than before, we

look to shout and jump.

if only the lines did fall,

in pleasant places,

making glad our hearts.

you and I are much alike in this,

yearning for time to slow & stop,

hearing the baby kick at night,

and watching the dogs run off

leash before 9am in the park.

prayer of a struggling actor

God, thank you for this most amazing day,

for all the moments that lift me out of self-absorption,

for teachers, present, past and future,

the articulate ones, and the ones whose wisdom,

only now begins to reverberate my mind and body.

 

For those roles that might have been this year,

for Biff, for Brick, for Edmund Tryone, for Konstantin,

even for Nick, fleeing from Virginia Woolf, I thank you

for the chance to at least speak those words aloud;

--once or twice even-- in an audition room, with folks,

listening or not, ignoring/and or scribbling notes,

you oh Lord do not despise a child’s passionate preparation.

 

For friends who are more fortunate than me,

give me a joyful heart, not only in public,

when a jealous smile disguised as ‘Congratulations’

becomes toxic on the subway ride home.

But let me wish them well--every one--behind closed doors,

since the success of us few who do succeed,

is your reminder of Grace and Provision for all.

 

And should my last play have seen its day,

and stage and filmset lock its doors on me,

open my eyes to the world--home and abroad--,

and cast me in the role of ‘fellow traveler’,

stumbling after the rider in the distance,

those breakfast of fish, bread and coffee,

will be set before me-I am sure of this- at the manger,

or at the break of day on the shore of Galilee.

i would be a stranger to myself

if it weren’t for you, my dear,

seeing me off at rush hour,

a blessing in my pocket,

your prayer to call me home:

i would be a stranger to

myself

 

if it weren’t for you,my dear,

cradling my head at night,

keeping my will steady,

my hand joyful to give:

i would be a stranger to

myself.

 

if it weren’t for you, my dear,

this microcosm ablaze,

our beating drum,

itching to make us

three and counting:

i would be a stranger to

myself

 

if it weren’t for you, my dear,

courage and bags in tow,

braving city and my doubt,

travelling steady by my side:

i would be a stranger to

myself

 

if it weren’t for you, my dear,

etching vision and belief,

trusting him whose lead

now brings us here,  he who

is every creature’s friend:

i would be a stranger to

myself.

 

half-forgot who I once was,

my dear, my lover, friend,

to see this world awake

with you and seek to mend.

an ode to theatre

tell stories that matter.

with people whose compassion

and courage bring the lights up,

sustain the laughter and the

focused silence during transitions.

this good, old, tried & true

willing suspension of disbelief.

for those who speak and act

and for all those watching,

listening, leaning into a world

completely foreign and yet

strangely familiar.

 

a place where all of us,

churched and unchurched

take the sacraments of

thought, word and deed.

and to come back again,

standing in line Sunday

after Sunday

(matinees included)

just to hear those words

again.

 

Blood. I. Body. This. Do.

Broken. Remembrance. Is.

For. Me. Pass on to you.

 

to walk outside again,

back into the cold,

after the final blackout

and bows of the actors.

feeling, perhaps, slightly

buzzed, wide eyed, awake.

suddenly remembering

the slight tremor of the

cigarette in the last scene,

and saying to no one in

particular as you walk

home alone: thank you.

ash wednesday

I woke up with ashes on my head,

and a 1yr old unwilling to sit still.

 

i woke up with white on my tongue,

and saw men dying dressed in red.

 

i woke up feeling not up to the task

but dressed my girl against the cold.

 

i woke up sensing someone’s glory,

words at odds in the morning light,

pain clamoring for 40 hungry days,

walls caving in, a curtain torn in two,

and a child standing calmly on a hill,

asking: shall we make all things new?

Emmaus to New York

to love the stranger,

is to love your friend.

to incarnate yourself

into their story and pray

for all things to be well in them.

 

if your best minutes

spent on their behalf,

in private & private thought,

-a good day's work indeed-

would help you see the

foreigner in a foreign land.

 

Home is not Emmaus,

or the old continent

or Boston or New York:

It is in the walk from A to B

with a stranger turned friend

and vanished from the table

before the borscht was cold,

only to be found again and

yet again, on roads leading

here, or wherever else you

think you need to be.

the candle

last night we returned, late, and tired,

the kitchen dark, and the tiles cold,

only to find, the table candle burning,

lit hours before during morning coffee.

 

'our house could have burned down'

she said, and of course she was right.

 

'I don't normally forget to blow it out' I said,

and blew out the flame.

 

this is not a poem about how life

is like a candle. this is a poem about

how sometimes disaster can strike

because of our lack of attention,

but somehow it doesn't and that is

good.

Philip Seymour Hoffman #2

an actor's grief long day:

this long abyss now steady

by our side, whether you

knew him or knew about him,

what's left is sadness for

those of us 

having lost a mentor.

 

his life's kind words and

craft's compassion showed us

how to work, and be the actors

we want to be.

 

there are so few,

so damn few left who live this way,

private moments made public

so many times that you confuse

your tears for joy,

and find yourself running

through the city more alive than Lazarus.

Philip Seymour Hoffman #1

I ran after him a few years ago,

and asked him, heart pounding,

whether he would see my play.

(you mustn't speak to those

well known in this city,

unless of course you must

and I did)

 

he said he was off to London

to direct another play and that

he had one weekend open but

most likely wouldn't make it.

 

I shook his hand and thanked him.

he walked west and I, still shaking

stood standing, grateful for his life.

untitled

for friends in pain and sorrow.

we traveled together last night,

into the valley of dread and grey,

woke up depleted and desperate.

a voice gently clenching...,

saying times was up, always has been,

time to face it, and crawl away.

 

there is a psalm, the 62nd, in a book

lying around my house, which

i sometimes open. it helped.

now, what else is there...

 

job-posting: need caretaker,

one that takes the cares,

and dreams, and restless nights,

and helps me steward them

towards a grain of something

useful.

 

if i waste more minutes,

confused and lost...

 

perhaps it's good to live here

a while longer, there are co-horts

that never leave this place.

and perhaps we can write a song

in the minor key, but a song

nonetheless. perhaps even those

further down the valley will hear,

and have the courage to hum along.