Daily Archives: February 23, 2016

In Mysterious Tones

Recently spoke
in mysterious tones to
a dog on the sidewalk,

not expecting a response,
and I got none; the point
of doing so was to exercise

a sense I had not used 
in years — the ability to sense
God in a dark brown inhuman

eye, to recall that divinity may be
a muted answer to a clumsy
question asked in an absurd way

to an impossible
respondent.  When there was
no answer at all, I did not despair

of God’s existence,
instead choosing
to believe I was rusty

and out of practice
and with more time
would get it right. 

I swear now to practice,
to ask every creature
and plant I see

similar cryptic questions,
and to then think
on whether any further lack 

of obvious answers
from them speaks more
about my inability to understand,

about an actual nonexistence
of God, or about how language
is so often just inadequate

for important things. I will figure it out
and in the meantime try
to simply enjoy

the silence,
fooling myself that
is all the answer I seek.

Israel Dances Into The Corner Store

Israel dances a half-stumble 
to Jimmy’s Corner Store for cigarettes,
banging through the narrow doorway, 
all of his body-music colliding with 
door jambs and point of sale displays
until Jimmy 

(whose real name is unknown
but is certainly not Jimmy,
Jimmy having been
the original owner of the store,
Jimmy having been gone
for fifteen years at least)

shouts at him for raising a ruckus
and insists he buy something or get out,
and after he buys
his pack of Mustangs

Israel drum-bangs his way
back to the street,
Israel strum-dings his way
back to the street,
Israel smoke-songs his way
back to the street where Israel
is lord of the dance and his name
is exalted, though it isn’t his
real name either, not the name
he was born with in his homeland.
That name is long gone

into this city’s alleys 
and distances
that instead named him Israel 
for no reason other than he looked 
like another guy named Israel
who walked these streets before him,
who bought his cigarettes from original Jimmy,
who had his own halting music to dance to,
who is himself long forgotten
having been easily replaced
through the city’s greed
for colorful characters
to people its own delusion 
that it is in fact
a promised land.

So Israel dances out,
lights up,
his path, spring-strings
himself along.
So Jimmy shakes his head,
watches him go,
turns back to the counter
and the sweeping up.
So I begin to forget that I
play my part too: the bemused
observer who makes it all possible
is necessary to the play; without me
to make it into a myth,
what would it be except
just another hard town
to be a home.