Daily Archives: October 27, 2014

Lion Trilogy

Originally three separate poems posted between 2010 and 2013.

Once there was a lion in love with a breeze —
neither jet stream nor hurricane, 
just a humble riffle of air —  
but on that breeze the lion soared.  

The lion must surely have been
transformed into some other being, as lions
cannot fly. Yet the lion flew.
There’s not more to be said of that, I think, 

unless you are one who must find meaning
in all things, one who must sip rainwater
from a china cup, one who holds a book to their face
to understand sunrise and thus misses the sight

of a lion making a transit across the face of the sun.
If it happened to you, you would no doubt
seek a parachute; you’d be so unworthy 
of the love of a good breeze.

There was a lion once
seated in my supermarket
near the cereal. 

I had been shopping
and turned the corner:
there was a lion, not raging,
not sleeping, just sitting.

I thought at first
it was some cardboard promotion, 
then realized
only I could see it.   
It seemed mostly eyes
and of course teeth.

But color of mane, of fur, of claws —
I remember
nothing of these.

What is this lion to me 
now?  A reminder
of how we all hunted once
and were hunted.
Speaker for the wild not found
in the supermarket. Disturbance
in the daily, torn fabric in the mask.

Memory of eyes, mostly. Of teeth.  

My present emotion?
Mostly still fear, 
but now it is less 
a fear of the lion
than a fear 
of forgetting there was a lion.

Still – good to be Lion. 
Sleep between blood feasts.
Be called noble strictly on looks.

Better to be Lioness.
Work the kill.
Stand over it and let the babies feed.

Better to be Gazelle.
Lie there after heart busting run.
Be part of the chain.

Better to be Vulture.
Watch, float down, eat, survive.
Hang away from the others in a pack.

Best, of course, to be Bones.
Best as well to be Leavings.
No guilt except that of unwanted peace.

And as Bones, as Leavings,
best of all to know you’ll be the Same
as Lion, Lioness, Gazelle, Vulture eventually.


The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra

Originally posted 7/21/2010.

A klezmer band purchases a sheepdog to act as band mascot.  They change the name of the band to the Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra.

The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra begin to travel widely and soon achieve a degree of acclaim.  Everywhere they go, they bring the sheepdog (known to the audiences only as The Sheepdog) with them.  He lies on stage during their sets, perking up for the dances, then dropping his sad head to the floor for the vocal lamentations and slow songs, peering out at the audience through his fringe of fur, looking right and left.

The Sheepdog is in private life named David. The band keep his real name to themselves, as they keep their own names private from the audiences they play for, using stage names — Aaron Out Front, Judith Judith, Ronaldo Star, Jonathan Regretful, Felix the Cat, Sam The Fiddler.

Sam The Fiddler, in particular, loves The Sheepdog and is David’s closest companion in the band, walking him during breaks, petting him for long hours in the privacy of hotel room, brushing his thick coat until it shines before every gig.

In their hometown south of Detroit, the Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra plays weddings so often that the sound of a clarinet in the street would lead to proposals and engagements.

I only have ever seen them play once, as I am not a fanatic for klezmer music in general.  But at a wedding of close friends from college, The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra played for hours, and I danced and wept as much as the families did for their offspring, and I have not forgotten.

Tonight on the radio, in the early dark of pre-dawn, I heard a recording of The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra and thought of you again:

how your hair fell before your eyes so often
that I was always brushing it back
to see them more clearly;

how I used to dance and weep with you
and called both things
a celebration of us;

how it seemed that a band was playing
whenever we spoke or loved together;

the air itself blurred into song.

This is not to say that remembering you reminds me of a sheepdog, or of The Sheepdog Klezmer Orchestra, or of weddings or dancing.  

This is to say that when I think of joy and sadness mixed, and of the caring that demands the constant brushing of hair from soft eyes, of hours of travel and the rewards of keeping private what is most your own,

those moments
have a soundtrack

in which you still sing to me

like a clarinet,  like Gershwin;
like klezmorim singing the music of names
used gently and only in confidence.


Originally posted 2/19/2010.

There are believed to be no tigers
in Worcester at the moment. 
Our lone animal park 
holds cougars and polar bears. 
If anyone here owns a surreptitious tiger,
they’ve been keeping it well-concealed, 
but this evening
I swear I saw a tiger
in the shadows by the back fence.

It’s been said that if a tiger
once tastes human flesh,
it will remain a maneater forever. 
This one clearly saw me,
but made no move in my direction.

It may have already eaten. 
It may not have known how sweet I am.
Perhaps that maneater label is just a legend.  
Perhaps the dream tiger, real or unreal, 
tried a man and found it wanting,
was seeking goat or sheep
or some game creature instead.

The tiger (and I know, I know,  it was unreal
but I could not take my eyes from it)
stopped by the oak tree.
It looked up  — perhaps at unfamiliar bark,
or a scent it had not had to identify before. 

Perhaps it was listening for voices it knew.
I called it, using a name I haven’t spoken in years.
It turned and tensed, fangs and stripes
bared but transparent, 

and suddenly I saw through its body, 
saw it as menacing as I had not before,
as if there was an overlay of pain rippling there
I had not noticed, as if I was seeing it
through a terror veil, and I longed
for it to rush me — I called to it:

mystery cat,
tiger in the mind,
be more real
than I can conjure.

Come and tear me up, 
leave my true blood on the ground.

I am tired of my fear of ghosts,
wish to fight something solid,
want to die by the act
something real.