Bob Schwartz

Category: Poetry

For a While

For a While

After the desert heat the dusk
with low growl whisper of thunder then
the roar and the cracked sky
emptying the rain.
Every night it will be this way
for a while.
Wall shaking and roof patter
call me out to see what the
matter it is.
Sound light and blessed water
and when I stand skin to air feel
a trickle of cool breeze streaming my way
for a while.

©

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Border

Border

The border of melancholy and joy
is the color of washed out orange gray
late sunset in lingering heat.
The playlist alternates
requited longing to despair
with no choice.

©

Trio Gnossieme

Trio Gnossieme

The birds
The cicadas
The wind through the branches.
A yellow flower twitches.
Nothing still.

©

The Secret American Sea

The Secret American Sea

We never knew
Who read and lived
The history and the law and the maps
That bounded by the oceans and the gulfs
And neighbors north and south
There was an unknown sea in which we
Floating and flailing, swimming and sinking
In waters we don’t recognize
Wait and wonder what company and creatures
Threaten us in waters that seem hardly
To be lightened and heated by the sun.
This sea is not in our books or memory or imagining
At least not here.
Point to the mountains and valleys, deserts and plains,
And people, yes people, you know are there.
Say again and again that there is great and good
And if we are to be lost for a time or forever
In the dark secret American sea
Now is not that time.

©

Bird Breakfast

Bird Breakfast

The birds on the morning grass
Are happy.
Easy pickings
Company
Conversation
A little fighting
A little flirting.
I supply
The coffee.

©

From Today to Tomorrow

From Today to Tomorrow

What is the thing
that will carry us
from today to tomorrow?
Not the clock or calendar
that simply mark advance
but do not force the issue.
Not the sky and sun
dark and down
light and up.
Love the prospect of love
of winning or losing love
of winning or losing whatever
we need or cherish
when we wake from sleep
is that enough to lift us
to drag us into and through this day?
Sweet comfort and bitter pain
sweet pain and bitter comfort
bid us good night
wish us good morning.
(A lie? A white lie?)
If a breath is good
more breaths are better
one more breath is better
one more breath
to blow a thought away.

©

L’dor Vador (Ramadan)

L’dor Vador (Ramadan)

Jews begat
Christians begat
Muslims.
Thousands became
Millions became billions.
Blessed and blind warriors
Pages of holy books
Edged in gold
Sharp as swords.
Angry and bitter blood transmutes
To sweet water in the scorching desert
Of seeking souls.

©

Note: We are in the midst of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, commemorating the first revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad. It is sad astonishment to students of all three Abrahamic faiths to see how zealously ignorant and contentious some of the faithful of each may be to each other. (Jews who will not dare to touch, let alone read, the New Testament; Jews and Christians who will not dare to touch, let alone read, the Qur’an.)

In fact, each faith has produced extraordinary core texts that should be the first stop for anyone claiming to know anything—not only about the other, but about their own traditions. The golden threads of Judaism are woven into Christianity, the golden threads of Judaism and Christianity are woven into Islam. The ugliness and terror are man-made; the best parts are from the compassionate and caring.

L’dor vador. From generation to generation. One family.

This I Can Almost Do

This I Can Almost Do

When I hear music I think
About playing I don’t play
When I see pictures I think
About painting I don’t paint
When I read I write.
Who are they to lay claim
To words on my lips
At my fingertips
Since words were born.
They don’t own the letters
Spaces stops and starts.
My music my picture.

©

Tilted Room

Tilted Room

Dreams are the tilted room
In the funhouse of sleep.
Outside (you hope)
The world is still level
But when you exit this way
You feel yourself
Falling over.

©

Note: Writing this poem, I realized that some readers have never experienced a funhouse, or even know what it is. It was an essential part of carnivals and amusement parks, before amusement parks became theme parks (and, presumably, amusement became themes). It is an awesome way for children to learn that things are not what they seem, but that that could be simultaneously fun and scary.

And in the spirit of tail wagging dog, or note wagging poem, note that funhouse also served as a titular inspiration for an important but now pretty neglected work of fiction. John Barth’s collection of short pieces Lost in the Funhouse (1968) is considered “a major landmark of experimental fiction.” Barth is better known for novels (often long novels) such as Giles Goat Boy (“a fantasy of theology, sociology, and sex”), but Lost in the Funhouse is an easy introduction to the early days of what is now called postmodern fiction. (A seriously misleading and meaningless conceit, since Joyce and others had been writing weird and wonderful formally transgressive things for decades, writing that delights and defies total comprehension.)

Anyway, Barth writes that the first piece in Funhouse, Frame-Tale “happens to be, I believe, the shortest short story in the English language (ten words); on the other hand, it’s endless.” Endless because it is a Moebius strip:

The rest of the collection, and his novels, are not so brief, filled with many more words of charged and challenging writing:

“One way or another, no matter which theory of our journey is correct, it’s myself I address; to whom I rehearse as to a stranger our history and condition, and will disclose my secret hope though I sink for it.

“Is the journey my invention? Do the night, the sea, exist at all, I ask myself, apart from my experience of them? Do I myself exist, or is this a dream? Sometimes I wonder. And if I am, who am I? The Heritage I supposedly transport? But how can I be both vessel and contents? Such are the questions that beset my intervals of rest.

“My trouble is, I lack conviction. Many accounts of our situation seem plausible to me—where and what we are, why we swim and whither. But implausible ones as well, perhaps especially those, I must admit as possibly correct. Even likely. If at times, in certain humors—stroking in unison, say, with my neighbors and chanting with them ‘Onward! Upward!’—I have supposed that we have after all a common Maker, Whose nature and motives we may not know, but Who engendered us in some mysterious wise and launched us forth toward some end known but to Him—if (for a moodslength only) I have been able to entertain such notions, very popular in certain quarters, it is because our night-sea journey partakes of their absurdity. One might even say: I can believe them because they are absurd.

From Night-Sea Journey

Artificial Tears

Artificial Tears

Tears won’t come naturally.
The eyes dry out
Like rainless desert,
Lids in rhythmic arc
Abrade instead of soothe and cleanse.
Tears in a bottle.
Actors cry on demand
Artificial tears instead of flowing
From single or shared sorrow
Or joy or the rough reality of days
Rubbing and scratching
The solitude of morning.
This is no act.

©