Poems: ‘Saving It’ and ‘Is This Real’


Some think the world can be saved by love

some think it can be saved by intelligence

It is the old quarrel of the heart and the head

each of which would be dead

without its rival and although

I am of those who doubt it can be saved

too many people greedy too many in the kind of pain

that perpetuates itself generation after generation

who cannot save themselves from the chokehold

of anger or from chasing oblivion

long enough to do the world any good

some say that is what bodhisattvas are for

but regarding tikkun olam, I hear the rabbis say

It is not incumbent on you to finish the task

neither are you free to give it up


    Let me see, is this real

    Let me see, is this real

    Let me see, is this real

    This life I am living.

         —Navajo prayer

Nose in that book/ white lightning but/ no eagle no galloping horse/ I was twenty

lacking enough silence/ no spacious cactus vista/ nevertheless yes yes            

white lightning this question ozone year chases year

wishing I had a tribe to tell me the answer

no answer/ asking myself

no answer/ asking God

asking in my pajamas aching/ asking in my silks lifting the cocktail

asking sidewalk sycamore is this real/ men foraging in wastebaskets

is this real the suffering and anger in city air thickening every year

is it real my white apartment/ is it real my sixty year marriage

asking if the sky’s headscarf is real if the Hudson sturgeon a highway away is real

is this real my life/ fool teacher poet/ mother lover wife/ tulip now wilting

Is this real/ now mask and distance/ it is my life/ let me see

before death gathers me please let me finally see

This post was originally published on Radio Free.