Archive for the ‘literature’ Category

A Little History

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

I heard, in the next room,
My son playing Für Elis on the piano.
Or piano-forte. But actually,
A Casio, which has
No hammers or pads –
Just a lonely black cord,
Connecting it to

The wall socket which runs
Copper down 16 floors
To a substation on 40th Street
Which channels the power,
From Canada,
Like a delta in the Hudson
Drips from the north making it to us.

History is like that,
Some of it even true,
Having flowed downstream
Swimming with
Rocks and Fish
Until it has a special taste,
An ironic freshness.

I want my son to feel,
Not just know,
The pluck of the harpsichord
Indefinite in dynamic, tinny,
Filling up the hall,
In the Medici court.
Just as Cristofori did.

I want him to be there,
Not just look at a picture,
With the men in the lab,
In the 1920s,
Working with vacuum tubes.
I fear the picture, thinking,
Everyone here is dead now.

From the piano to the tubes
To the Casio,
To the iPad he uses for sheet music,
The scope of history is both
Enormous and claustrophobic.
Our apartment stands in Native soil,
But was once a subterranean volcano.

Where does it end?

It makes me think of my son,
Supposed to be reading or
Playing or something else,
Standing suddenly in front of me
Arms open, ready for a hug.
Here, this is for you.

Someday I will be a picture
And the phrase will again be true.
Everyone in this picture
Is dead now.
As, I shudder at the thought,
Will he be.
And what will it matter?

That I was suddenly
If illogically,
Inspired to take him uptown to
the Met
Where they have an original
Cristofori piano,
Molded by his hands.

Will that memory mean,
Or will it mean
A small drop of something,
Hundreds of years on.
What will he
What will I

Have created?
Everyone in this picture
Is dead.
But their ghosts,
Lying there with open arms,
Whisper, Here,
This is for you.

Polar Bears

Friday, June 15th, 2012

There are a lot of pictures online
Where else?
Of polar bears who
Tragically unawares,
Jumping onto the wrong sheet of ice,
Find themselves finally
Alone, in the middle of the ocean.

We might not remember
Or it might not matter
That the creates are vicious
Bloodthirsty predators
Their black eyes and big noses
And white fur
Make us want to love them.

So seeing them floating
Infinitely abandoned
As their world melts around them
As our world melts around them
Is horrifying
And it reminds us
That we are the predators.

But there was
A last trilobite.
And there was
A last dodo.
And there will be
Most certainly
A last human.

When I am clinging
To the last piece of ice,
I think about the polar bear and the dodo,
And you.
And I am thankful
I have the capacity
To know I am not alone.

Every So

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Every so often I forget
That our son is perfect.

Because nothing is perfect,
Nothing is absolute,
Not even the rule
That nothing is absolute.

I can’t see perfection,
Because I was born at the
Time, when cartoons
Became a witty statement statement,
And every single word we said
Was chilled with context,
Like we were forever shaking off
From a winter walk,
A frigid soaking layer
Of everything we should have
Just openly loved.
Sometimes, I fear I’ll choke
On all the irony.

Every so often I forget
That our daughter is perfect.

I think it’s all based in
A kind of self-loathing
Would I want to be in a club,
That would have me as a member?

I can’t love deeply
Because for me love
Love me back,
Or might not love me forever,
And so approach with caution,
Look for subtle clues
Like we are children,
Alone in the house for the first time
Loving the freedom
Listening for sounds,
We lock the door.
Sometimes I peek out,
Fearing I love the monster.

Every so often, I forget
That you are perfect.

Because I think too much.
But however flawed my perception may be,
I never forget,
How lucky I am.

Stop Thanking God

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I was just reading too many posts on Facebook about this or that survivor. One was of this wonderful woman who had a mastectomy, survived cancer, and is now pregnant. The caption said, God is Good!

And I am not a disbeliever. I don’t fight the notion of a god, though I don’t believe in any supernatural beings, gods included. I have no problem with the idea that there might be, and that that God or those gods might be beyond our comprehension, working in ways beyond our scope of understanding. But everything right here, right now, that I know of, I know of outside of God. I can explain gravity and the moon and the tides and the coloring in my love’s hazel eyes. I don’t need a god for that, and I most certainly don’t need a god to tell me what is right or wrong.

So I have nothing against the idea that God is Good. I take no issue with the possibility that there are aliens from far away planets currently on their way for some chips and a Yankees’ game, either. If those green big-eyed folk are friendly and meaningfully address issues of social inequality and environmental impact, then I’d be fine calling them good, too.

But I’m imagining the doctor who diagnosed the cancer, the anesthesiologist who brought the woman to within an inch of her life and then brought her back, the nurses, and finally the surgeon who cut out a deadly and thoughtless disease – and even if they were all deeply religious, I just don’t see why we’re thanking God first.

When I get good service at dinner, I don’t tip God.

The thing is, I believe that we are given what we have. Not by gods, but by society. Schools, roads, clean air, security, fire protection – I could not have been educated without these things. And I openly accept that when I do good deeds – like founding a school or raising my kids – I am really extending all the good that has been done for me.

But I could have been a banker. I’m Ivy-League, quick with numbers, a quick study, and well-connected. I could have joined the training program at an investment bank, I could have been an analyst or a software developer at a brokerage house. The money would have been better, the work easier, and the life far more luxurious than the one I ended up with. I didn’t end up with it, though. I chose it. And yes, my parents and my dogs and the butterfly in China also played a part in those choices, but I had final say. I could have lived a life devoted entirely to myself or money or any other thing. But I chose to do a bit more for the world.

So did those doctors and nurses.

So no, don’t thank God. Maybe gods and aliens are good, most likely one is a Bronze-aged fairy tale written by some Palestinians a few thousand years ago and the other are probably just like us only greener – but it doesn’t matter. We little specs of carbon and hope down here, we have to choose to be good, and we deserve just a bit of credit.

For B

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Don’t Stay There

You can stay in the lane
For a bit, if it makes sense.
But there’s a car merging in,
And he’s going to want this space
So get out!

Merge out, Brie!
And I fear the shudder
And the tilt
As the car makes a
Jarring turn into the middle lane
And the very real possibility
That she didn’t look
When she looked
To see if the lane was clear.

But there is no shudder.
She stays in the lane,
I press the invisible
Imaginary brake pedal at my feet,
Wondering when she’s going to
Merge left.
Until I realize she’s not
Going anywhere.

So I say,
Why are you still here?
And she responds
That it’s safer in the
Right lane.
That it’s slower and she
Feels more comfortable.

The truck rears a little
As she slams the breaks
Realizing almost too late that the
Car in front was not going that fast.
Then we’re okay for a second.

I want to say
Well, that doesn’t feel
Very safe.
But I think about
What to say so that
She won’t clench her fists
Crush her body
And look vacantly out
For the rest of the
Driving lesson.

So I say
It’s not better
In the right lane.
It seems like it should be,
Since you’re never speeding,
And you’re always closer
To the exit.

But if you stay,
You’ll be stuck here with all
Those who need this space to merge
Into greater things
And worse,
Those who
Never will.

Don’t ever avoid
Pushing a bit harder on the gas.
Don’t dodge
The catching up
Or the moving past.

Sometimes we fear
A high speed death
More than
A slow life.

A Poem for Jen

Monday, February 14th, 2011


I think of the buildings
Men (mostly men) built,
After we invented elevators
Sometimes, when I think of you.

I think of the farms that disappeared
North of the city,
After they built the raised rail
And we could get there.

After the fifties, I’ve heard,
People started to dream
In black and white,
But now we dream in Hi-Def.

I figure the skyscraper
Has no idea what the world was
Before what it needed to exist

I know the 4 train northbound
Rattling on its tracks,
Doesn’t think of the soft patter
Of hooves on grass.

I read somewhere
That we never could have
Dreamed in black and white
Before Daguerre showed us.

I can’t remember, my love,
My world,
Before you made it
What it always was.

Sometimes Quiet

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sometimes quiet wins
The battle for your thoughts.
And the bills are paid,
The dog is walked,
The grandmother called.
Everything could be worse.

Sometimes you push open the doors of the casino
With all the noise and the lights behind you
And the old ladies, crouched over the levers.
You’re ahead, even if by only a few bucks.
As your skin greets the cool of the evening,
The stars loiter above.

I run my fingers through my hair.
Still there.
Listen to the books sleeping,
Watch the cars on the highway below,
And don’t wonder for a moment
What it would be like to fall.

Tomorrow will bring bad news,
Or an ache never thought of,
A bill you couldn’t expect.
The rough world will always
Inhale deeply and cry out to you.
Though maybe not this time.

Everything in its Place – Draft

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Everything in its place,
Or maybe the trash
Where it will be drained
Maybe tragically
Of purpose.
The plaything of rats
And millennia of decay.

Hundreds of wingnuts
(and myriad bolts which seem inexplicably to not fit them)
Padocks forever clenched,
Combinations maybe written on a notepaper
In a distant school
in a far away grade
By children who are ours only in that they once were.

And brads – we keep brads
Not having the kind of art hung with much more
This might have held a terrible print
Or a framed work of art
By a fifth-grader who now is learning to drive.
It doesn’t have the paint or the canvas
Only the plaster from which
It was ripped.

The batteries and the extra screwdrivers
Are easy to sort out.
The tape seems to have ensnared
Hundreds of tiny screws and paperclips
The dirt of the garage floor.
And maybe the glitter from that
Halloween when she was a princess
Or an 80s glam rocker.

How do we sort that out?

Do we keep the extra bulbs for the Christmas light string
(have we ever replaced a bulb?
Or do we just plan to,
Standing in the aisle,
Buying new sets, three-for-two)
And if we don’t – keep them – do we lose the
Tree and gifts and the pleasure we shared
Watching the kids
Open gifts we couldn’t afford,
Whose spare parts litter the floor in front of us.

It all fades away and someday,
You shudder to think,
Is gone. And your child or a stranger will
Sweep the concrete, throw away the extra blades
And the vast supply of cheap pens
Into reinforced, black 30-gallon trash bags.
Along with empty film canisters which
Held what you or at least your grandparents
Thought were memories.

But we are memories.
And the garage needs to be sorted.

The Frenzy Begins

Friday, March 19th, 2010

The saddest part is that though I initiated this blog almost entirely to get myself writing, now is the first time I’m actually going to commit to it. Perhaps it’s the long and deep scars from from red marks on my papers in high school, but more likely, pure, unadulterated laziness. If you’re game, sign up! Buddy jareda.

Fun with Grammar

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

Recently, my peeps over at HuffPo posted this fun slideshow of awful grammatical and spelling and otherwise logical errors found in public. I submitted my own, but they didn’t take any user submissions – so here they are!

This was taken last year around the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx.

This was taken at my very un-gentile building on the Upper East Side.